You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself. Matthew 22:38 (TPT)
The Trinity of Love – Start With Love Series – Part 4
Start with loving yourself.
Self love is the hardest of all loves because it is both the most important and misunderstood one.
We talk, and hear much talk, about the power of love, but most of us fail to direct that power onto ourselves from ourselves. We wait to receive love from others to feel its strength in our lives.
I’m not sure if it's because we have such a bad relationship with love, or that we misunderstand its properties, or underestimate its pure ability and intention – we confuse it too much with greed and lust and gratification – but for some reason, most of us seem to experience unrequited love from our own hearts.
Desperate to receive it from others, desperate to have others receive our own, and desperately keeping it from ourselves.
Growing up in the kind of faith community that I did, there was a lot of contradiction about self-love and care. We weren’t to be prideful, but it was a goal to have a leader say that they were proud of us. We were to give the best of ourselves to others but not think the best of ourselves. There was an emphasis on self-critique, yet we downplayed self-awareness, at least most positive forms of it. “All glory to God, it's all about Jesus, it's Him at work IN me, not me.”
We danced a tight and awkward two-step between shame, guilt, and just enough self-respect. Not too much… we didn't want it to go to our heads. God saved us because we were wretched and needed saving.
My Pastor used to say that before he was saved, his life was an offense to God. “I’m nothing without Jesus” was our banner, our motto, and our MO. And it sunk in deep.
I am nothing without Jesus.
I am nothing.
Perhaps I’ve taken it too far, but I think some of you reading this will relate.
Loving yourself is sometimes, in some circles, seen as a sin. We’re afraid of what loving ourselves will turn into. But it does not mean being self-absorbed, or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Those things stand on their own feet and have nothing to do with Divine love.
Believing that you are nothing is incredibly damaging to your heart and faith. More on that in a coming series.
Jesus didn’t die because we are terrible and unworthy and unholy. He died for love. He died because even while we were ‘sinners ‘(Romans 5:8) – while we didn't know a thing about the Divine – he had settled his affection and attention on us. You, my friend, are not nothing. And those around you who do not “know” the Divine are not nothing, either.
We start with love. We start with goodness. We start with the fact that we are loved, and we do belong. If we don’t start there, we’ll build a life chasing something that we already have; we’ll try and extract from others what they were never created to give us: self-worth.
“Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’ Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40 TPT.)
All the meaning and knowledge and fulfillment you will ever be able to find in this life is contained within the trinity of love: God, others, self. And self-love isn’t a “second best, get to it if you can, if you have any leftover” kind of love. It shares the same level of importance as the others.
Because when it comes to love, you can’t separate it. It is of one piece. There’s not love for God, then love for your neighbor, then love for yourself. There is just the flow of love in your life. That’s why you can’t really love others well until you learn how to love yourself well.
As we learn to love ourselves, it empowers us to love others, too. When we fall in love with our own lives, we are really falling in love with life itself, in all its complicated, beautiful, divine, glory.