Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’h No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus is summarizing all of spirituality in these two laws: love God first, and love your neighbor just like you would love yourself. But what if you don’t love yourself? What if you are afraid to know yourself or love yourself? Perhaps you’ve been taught (often by Christianity!) that any self-focus is selfish. But here, Jesus alludes to a healthy self love that seems to be necessary for, or at least a guide to loving others. But since we are so much better at learning to love others, let’s take the principles for loving others and apply them to ourselves. Otherwise, with a festering self-loathing or abandonment of our inner selves, we may not be able to joyfully and properly love others at all.
Self-love cannot happen without embracing your created self
According to renowned psychoanalist Eric Fromm, real love involves four components: care, resonsibility, respect, and knowledge. 1. To love our selves properly, we need to:
- Care about ourselves: That means more than just dispassionate physical care, but rather, care for the whole person, like we would love a child. We need to want to protect, help develop, and have affection for our selves.
- Respond to ourselves: Our inner person is not an object, but a person we interact with. The Bible records King David speaking to his own soul (Psalm 42), and communing with himself on his bed (Psalm 4:4). We have all had this inner dialog with ourselves. We need to listen to our deeper selves, and respond with compassion, understanding, and kindness.
- Respect ourselves: Respect here means not doing things that demean our being or violate our integrity. If we are abusing our inner selves through trying to please others, or serving unworthy goals like achievement in a career we don’t like, or ingnoring valuable parts of ourselves like our artistic, sensitive, or even our warrior side, that needs to change.
- Know ourselves: If we are unwilling to know someone’s deeper self, their desires and hurts and self-concept, do we really care about them? No. And the same goes for ourselves. There is no true love without knowledge.
God, I have been ignoring, and sometimes hating myself. Thank you that You love me, and that I can love myself without just being selfish. Thank you that you have given me my own created self to know, love, and develop. I won’t just do these things to glorify or worship myself, but as a good steward of what you have given me, I will care for myeslf so that I may serve you and others better. Thank you that you care about the real, created me, and I should too. Guide me in restoring me to myself, to you, and to others. Amen.
- The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm ↩