Loving yourself the right way begins with loving others.
I know, sounds a bit strange right?
Or maybe this sounds like it could make sense but it just not immediately clear why that is perhaps?
Well don’t worry, everything will make perfect sense soon.
But before we can get to that, we have to first be aware of how loving yourself the wrong way can be dangerous.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us that self-love is actually one of the most dangerous values for a person to live by along with heartlessness, unholiness, as well as many others.
3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Ok, so loving yourself is bad news then? No problem.
Now let’s have a look at Mark 12:30-31.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[a] This is the first commandment.[b]
31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Ok, so I should love God with all my heart and love others like I love myself? Doesn’t seem impossible.
But wait, aren’t I not supposed to love myself in the first place because it’s a sin?
How am I supposed to love others as I love myself when I’m not even supposed to love myself?
Don’t these verses almost seem to contradict each other?
Well, actually they don’t.
To explain this, let’s take a step back to understand how human love can be adequately categorized
In terms of love between human beings, a person can either love himself the most, love others the most, or love both equally.
Sounds reasonable yes?
Now consider this, people who love people are generally considered good because they put the needs of others before their own.
People who love both themselves and others equally are generally considered neutral because they neither help nor hurt others.
And people who love themselves are generally considered evil because they put their own needs before the needs of others.
This does not mean to say that people who love themselves primarily are supervillains plotting to destroy the world something crazy like that or even to suggest that they are bad people.
For the sake of this analogy, all I mean to suggest is that there are three types of people in the world,
1. generally selfless people we can consider to be “positive”.
2. generally neutral people we can consider to be “neutral”.
3. generally selfish people we can consider to be “negative”.
Is that fair?
From this understanding, it becomes a little bit clearer how the Bible can warn against the indulgence of self-love yet simultaneously advocate its use for moral guidance.
Everyone loves themselves to some degree, it’s an integral part of the human experience and it is not in and of itself a bad thing do.
Were this not the case, Mark 12:31 would not exist because the Bible would never advocate for the practice of sin in everyday life (it literally does the exact opposite).
An issue arises when we allow the love of ourselves to eclipse that of anything else, especially God.
We all know this, however, it is the response that most of us are inclined to make to this issue that creates a serious problem not only for ourselves but the world around us.
This is because in the decision of deciding to love either God or ourselves the most, a vast majority of us are tempted to choose both and in doing so, become neither positive nor negative but neutral.
Being neutral can create the illusion giving us both the reward of loving God as well as the comfort from loving ourselves.
In short, we do this because we want the best of both worlds.
Yet what’s the problem with being neutral?
As long as I’m not overtly selfish and not hurting anyone, I should be okay, right?
As God says in Revelation 3:15-16
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
In trying to get the best of both worlds, a neutral person receives nothing from either.
While I am certain that many people have been told all their lives to stay away from the immorality of self-centeredness, what I am attempting to demonstrate is that it is not enough to simply evade the problem selfishness and negativity as such behavior can only allow you to remain neutral.
Neutrality does solve anything and someone who is only a bystander can never save anyone.
All that I mean to say is that the occasional act of selflessness and kindness towards the people around you in everyday life can go a long way not just for them, but for you as well.
Loving yourself the right way doesn’t mean to be indifferent towards the world around you and it certainly does not mean to put yourself before others.
Loving yourself the right way means to care for yourself passively and to care for others actively.
In other words, it means to love yourself in your thoughts, to love others in your actions, and most of all, to love God in your heart.
It’s as it says in Luke 6:31,
“31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That verse isn’t calling for us to be neutral in the world but rather to be a continuous source of positivity to others through the use of compassion, understanding, and love.
So live your life for the goodness of yourself and or the greatness of others and don’t allow yourself to fall for the allure of neutrality or negativity.
Be a shining light and be a living hope.
After all, there is no innocent civilian, only a hero in disguise.
Thanks for Reading!