Learning to love yourself can be hard, but we can love ourselves because God loved us first. I need this just as much as anyone else and I hope you find it helpful.
So what is the Law of Love?
You probably know it better as the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 but originally found in the Book of Deuteronomy
‘ Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ‘
I use this verse a lot because, as I said in the beginning, I am trying to learn this myself. But, I want to take a different view at first because I think one of the most important parts is the, “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF.” I bet I’ve heard 20 sermons on this verse and only one I can remember on loving ourselves. That is mainly because most Christians don’t believe it. They come up with some self-deprecating quasi humble, “I’m not worthy” and that’s not what the bible says. Yes, we are supposed to have a proper sense of self but, the implication is obvious, if we don’t love ourselves we can’t love our neighbor.
As Christians, we want to talk about ourselves like we’re dirt or worms or worm-dirt or worse but that is not how God sees us. And while we are sinners, God made us and he made us a little lower than Himself (Psalm 8:5)
‘ You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor. ‘ (CEV)
It’s Okay To Love Yourself
God didn’t create you not to love yourself. We get those feelings of inadequacy from years of telling ourselves we’re bad (Which is what I did) or other people telling us we’re bad. When you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church you get a new name. Just like Saul who became Paul after his conversion. I took the name of St. Moses the Black because he was the badest dude I could find. But deep down, I also knew that if God could heal a thief and scoundrel like Abba Moses, he could heal me. This was born of my low self-esteem.
The Book That Helped Me See
In his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, (Affiliate Link) David Seamands gives four things that low self-esteem can cause.
- Low self-esteem paralyzes your potential – He says God grieves over this and very few people overcome this haunting self-doubt. It seems to settle in like a great fog. He references the story of the talents in Matthew 25 and how the servant with one talent was paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy so bad he couldn’t decide what to do, so he just buried it.
- Low self-esteem destroys your dreams – In the prophecy of Joel 2:28 he says, ‘ Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams.’ Seamands says the Holy Spirit helps dream the dreams God has for us but our feeling of unworthiness snatch them away.
- Low self-esteem ruins your relationships – Think about your relationship with God. Seamands says that if you feel inferior you will think God must not love or care for you. After all, He made you so he must have made you this way. This will also lead to our relationships with others. If we don’t like ourselves then we can’t like others. He says this, “If you have low self-esteem, you ask another human being to do for you what no other person can do–to make you feel adequate and able–when you are already convinced that you are inadequate and unable.” If you don’t learn to love yourself, you won’t let anyone else love you.
- Low self-esteem sabotages your Christian Service – What’s the first thing people say when you ask them to serve in the church, “I can’t….insert excuse here” If you’ve ever worked in church ministry you know this is true. Seamands says that our low self-esteem robs God of a “Marvelous chance to show off.” Go back to the parable of the talents. We don’t give God a chance to multi[ply our gifts if we are too afraid to use them.
We create what Thomas Merton called the false self. Our false self is a projection of who we think the world wants to see. This false self is a wall that blocks God’s love from getting in and us from sharing His love with others. It is a barrier that separates us from God and the people around us.
This isn’t what God wants from us. God died so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. God not only died for us, He lives in us so that we can be united with Him because He loves us and wants a relationship with us. We have to be willing to let Him change us
So How Do We Start?
Remember that you are not a bad person.
You can love yourself because you’re a good person who may have made bad choices, but you are not bad. The Orthodox Church doesn’t even teach original sin like the western church does. Yes, we feel the effects of Adam’s sin but we’re not responsible for it. You can’t go to hell for what someone else did. God told Jeremiah,
‘“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”’
While God’s not speaking directly to us here we can be sure that if he knew Jeremiah, he knows us. Because Paul tells the Ephesians this,
‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’
You are God’s masterpiece. You look in the mirror tomorrow morning and you know that you are God’s masterpiece and he has had a plan for you all along.
Talk to Someone
None of us need to go it alone. If that means talking to your pastor or priest or other outside help then do it for your own sake. Sharing our burdens is what Christians are supposed to do. Today we are so separated that we all try to go it alone and that doesn’t work. Let your false self down and let other people in. We need each other now, more than ever.
I’m going to recommend the workbook for Healing for Damaged Emotions.(Affiliate Link) I can tell you from personal experience it will help you begin to let God in and heal you.
As always, I hope this has been helpful. Next week we’ll talk about loving our neighbor and God knows we can use more of that as well.
Seamands, David A, and Beth Funk. Healing For Damaged Emotions Workbook. David C Cook, 2015.