Home > Some Different Thoughts > Some Different Thoughts On Love: The Ancillary Concept of Loving Oneself

Some Different Thoughts On Love: The Ancillary Concept of Loving Oneself

“‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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

Many people disagree with what I’m about to say. I’m pretty used to it. :). I do think what I’m about to talk about is true, but I would love some discussion on this topic because I know amongst readers of this blog there is a diversity of opinion. And some of you readers are both discerning and great writers, so make my life a little more interesting and post a comment.

In the last 5 years, I’ve heard this statement and variations of it 100 times, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love others.” The statement is based on Jesus’ claim that loving your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest commandment. I don’t have a problem with an individual loving who they are, not by any means. However, I don’t think it should ever be a focus for someone to learn to love themselves in order to learn to love others. Here’s the deal, the thing that gets in the way of people loving others is not them not spending enough time caring about themselves, but by spending too much time and thought on their own well being.

There are some contendable things I believe about self-love that are the result of personal experience. I believe people naturally love themselves with their actions. I think this love is perverted and unhealthy, but I would define it as twisted form of love, and so, still love. It seems to me that the people with the worst self perspectives are frequently some of the most self focused. They don’t have a very high view of themselves, but self-love and self-perception are not the same thing. I don’t have a very high view of the rapist, but I care deeply for him. The cutter doesn’t think they’re worth much, but they cut because it does something or they hope it will do something for their emotional well being, whether that be getting attention or numbing their pain. One who commits suicide does so because they hate their life so much that they want it to end. They are fulfilling their desire of not having a life and so caring for themselves. Those that run around trying to please everyone are only focused on pleasing everyone because they are desperate for everyone to like them or to be happy. They run around to please everyone because they are looking out for their own emotional well being. It’s self-love even though on some level it looks like its about caring for others. I could give a number of other examples. I hope my contention is made, however, that a lack of love for ourselves is not really the problem. Self love is what we do.

Another problem with the idea that we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love others is that it doesn’t say it anywhere in Scripture. If this was such a vital concept to understand before we could live out the second greatest commandment, don’t you think that God would have mentioned it? But He never really says that. He says other things, such as “in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). He implies that it is inherent in each of us to look to our own interests, but looking to the interests of others (“having the same love” phil 2:2) requires some effort on our own part. It’s doesn’t come instinctively. I do believe there is something necessary we need to do before we can love others to the fullest. And I believe Jesus tells us precisely what that is.

The first commandment is greater than the second and perfects the second. Loving God is necessary to both love others in a pure way and to love oneself in a healthy way. If we don’t love God, I don’t think we can appreciate just how valuable every person is. If we can’t understand their value, we can’t care about them in ways that honor and bring out their value. The reason people are worth loving at all, the reason it is so important to care about others is that they are made in the image of God. If we don’t love God, we certainly aren’t going to be able to appreciate His image in others. And if we don’t love Him first, far above ourselves and far above others, then all of our acts of love, toward ourselves and others are going to be always perverted and frequently destructive. Only when He is first can we love others well. I think that loving ourselves is ancillary because if we love God, we’re going to appreciate ourselves.

I do think our self-perspective is important, but if we’re focusing on that, we’re being self-centered and self-loving. People don’t have a hard time with a negative self perspective because they need to learn to see themselves in a more positive light, they have a hard time loving themselves because they need to learn to see themselves less. When, instead of focusing on us, we focus on loving God, His reality becomes our reality. We stop being so arrogantly self centered with our self-demeaning attitude, and we put God before us, loving Him over all and in so doing, we recognize His image in ourselves.

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  1. Anonymous
    February 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Very, very well said. You have a great perspective and you write very well Jeremiah. Thanks for sharing!

  2. February 1, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks a lot for your kind words. One question, who are you? 🙂

  3. Anonymous i3 year old
    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Je pense votre sur quelque chose ici plus étrange, et je crois aussi que plus d’Eglises et les gens ont besoin de commencer croire ceci. La vérité plus Biblique serait serviable mais je crois qu’une forte relation avec Dieu vous fera seulement va voir de nouvelles relations et être plus sain à cause de lui.

  4. February 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Hahaha. Is that i3yro? Here’s the free translation of ze french.
    I think your on something here stranger, and I also think that more Churches and people need to begin believe this. The more Biblical truth would be obliging but I think that a strong relation with God will make you only be going to see from new relations and being healthier because of him.

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