Ay yi yi, friends. I debated writing this one – but when an idea sparks, sometimes my fingers just get to work on the keyboard. Kinda like “felt cute, might delete later,” I’m having a “felt bold, might delete later” kinda moment.
Self love. It’s a trigger term in the Christian community, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one person in the Christian community say that self love is okay.
Honestly – it’s a topic I struggle with because at my core – I don’t really think it’s that bad.
But that’s my opinion, right? Maybe I view the meaning of self love a little differently than the secular world. And trust me, I will absolutely share my viewpoint about why I feel this way and will never for even a fraction of a minute claim to know better than the Almighty.
But before I explain my rationale, I want you to know something: I did a little digging and a little research to see if I could figure out what God truly says about self love, because I just don’t understand how it can be that bad (although, I get how people can turn it into this monster of a thing, so there’s that).
But I’m talking surface level self love.
And, I think I came to some pretty solid conclusions, which I’ll share. Just keep reading.
Hopefully you’ll understand after I share what I found why I think the interpretations of self love get a little blurry every now and then.
But know this: at the end of the day, you have to be the judge. No, actually, God will be the judge. But it’s up to us to be responsible for how we feel morally about a subject, and take it to God for clarity and discernment.
What Does The Bible Say About Christian Self Love?
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth. So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”Genesis 1:26-27
God created every single one of us in His image. So that right there tells me that we are pretty special. Not to be confused with putting ourselves up on this imaginary pedestal, but it shows that God created us with a divine plan in place, and that’s not something to be taken lightly.
In fact, we should be proud that we were created in His image.
I love this explanation from TIFWE of what it means to be created in the image of God. They explain it like this: God exists as three: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. This Holy Trinity is always in perfect relationship with each other. And in creating us in His likeness, it can be viewed that God wants us to be in a perfect relationship, as well. With Him.
An honor, actually.
We can take it a step further, as TIFWE does in their explanation and reference to John Piper who talks about this in his book Desiring God. Piper explains that God designed man with the desire to pursue happiness.
Side note – that’s an affiliate link for Desiring God. If you feel inclined to check out that book or anything else on Amazon, I may make a commission, at no extra cost to you, which I’ll donate straight back to Compassion International.
But God also created us to have free will. So while we were all created in His image and He desires to have a relationship with us, not all of us work to uphold the honor that comes with that creation.
And then God gets angry when we seek pleasure from idols rather than happiness and peace that comes from seeking a relationship with Him.
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”Jeremiah 2:13
And that’s where I think self love can be viewed as an idol; if you’re not careful, and if your intentions are not pure but instead come from a place of vanity or self absorption.
Which is why I think those bath-bomb clouded waters get a little murky.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV
Is Christian Self Love a Bad Thing?
Here’s what I truly think:
Ultimately I think we confuse the terms self love and self care. Self love comes with this connotation that being beneficially selfish is a good thing. That you have to put yourself first and take care of yourself. Treat yourself, because you are deserving. And worthy.
And quite frankly, I agree with some of that mentality. I think that we owe it to God to take care of ourselves. He created us, after all. In His image, no less. We should be thankful and treat our minds and bodies as temples, right?
When we abuse our bodies we’re not honoring God. When we allow negative influences or thoughts to take up space in our minds, we’re not honoring God.
And sometimes, ensuring that we are taking care of ourselves and thus, honoring God, comes from loving ourselves enough to advocate for ourselves and ensure that our mind, body, and soul are healthy, well, and being treated with respect.
The Bible does, in fact, tell us that we need to love God first. But then it says something else that warrants paying close attention – it tells us that second, we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”mark 12:30-31
Here are a couple things I think we can pull from this: we are supposed to show love to our neighbor, yes, but we are supposed to love them as though we would love ourself.
It doesn’t say to put ourself last. It says love our neighbor as ourself. While our role as Christians calls for us to love God first, and our neighbors second, I don’t necessarily think that we’re supposed to scrimp on the self-love, either.
I don’t believe that God wants us to become doormats and let others take advantage of our good works.
Should we act selflessly? Yep. Should we give to others as often as we can? Uh-huh. Are we supposed to take care of one another and make sure others’ needs are met? You betcha.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”Hebrews 13:16
But giving to others, and making sacrifices to do so, also doesn’t mean that we are not worthy of those same acts. It is when we act selfishly therein lies the problem.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”1 John 3:16-18
Learning to love myself was huge in overcoming the dark space I spent years in. Years where I struggled due to trauma. Years where I abused my body with an eating disorder. Years where I made terrible ungodly decisions due to low self esteem. I drank too much. I hung around people I shouldn’t. I engaged in activities that couldn’t be further from a Christian lifestyle.
And I did all of those things because I had zero love for myself. (I had also pushed away the purest love there is, and I was blind to believe that Jesus still loved me, as imperfect and as damaged as I felt I was).
I had zero self respect during that phase in my life. I definitely didn’t believe in self love because I was too busy wallowing in self pity and self loathing. It was only when I began to understand that my circumstances did not define my worth that I started to learn how to love myself just a little.
And I began to value my life.
I began to recognize the beauty in what God had given me, and I started to understand that I was worthy of self love, worthy of receiving love, worthy of living a life that God would be proud of to the highest standards He had planned out for my path.
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”Ephesians 5:29 ESV
I also remember the nights I laid awake in bed crying my eyes out, pleading to God to erase the pain I felt. The memories of what I had gone through back when I didn’t love myself.
I don’t believe that loving yourself is a sin. I think it’s a sign of self respect, and honoring the fact that you were created in God’s image. But I also think it’s something that can be individualized – it all comes back to our intentions and what’s in our hearts, right?
“But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
I’m able to love myself because I know that God created me with unique talents and a purpose in this life. I know that He created me for more. So I value that.
I’m also able to recognize that love comes from Him. And self peace and contentment come from a relationship and salvation that only knowing Jesus can provide.
There are some people who will put such a high priority on loving thyself that they disregard putting God first in their life. But then I feel that there are others, like me, who have come to understand that loving ourself doesn’t mean we have to put everything beneath us. That we can honor our creator and taking care of others while still respecting the person He created us to be and become.
It involves a great deal of self reflection: knowing and understanding our true intentions. Are we being beneficially selfish for secular reasons? Or are we truly showing ourself love in a way that God would want us to?
I guess what it boils down to (in my opinion) is this: self love doesn’t have to become “me first,” it just means, “me too.” Making sure that while we’re filling other peoples’ buckets, ours doesn’t run empty, either.
Self love is a way that we can honor the life God gave us. But it’s a thin line – and when we walk the tightrope of me-me-me, we start to forget that there is one truly greater than ourselves.
And that is where the problem lies with self love. It becomes a dangerous practice when we allow ourself to develop an inflated view of who we think we are vs. who God sees and calls us to be.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”psalm 139:14 ESV