Can I Really Love Myself?

One of the more common statements that everyone wants to believe is, “You need to learn to love yourself!” Or, a variation, “You need to learn to forgive yourself.”

The idea is pleasing because everyone gets down on themselves, or feels depressed about some mistake or foolish thing …. But can we really love ourselves? Isn’t that sort of what “Honest John” Foulfellow said to Pinocchio? “You need to live a little,” “You deserve a break!” Isn’t all that just an expression meant to convey “you really need to burn that conscience right out of you.”

What is love, anyway?

According to the Bible, love is defined by sacrifice. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. By this we know love, that God laid down his life for us… both written by the apostle of Love, John.

Can I “lay down my life” for myself? Can I sacrifice for myself?

Typically, we might have a responsibility for money, which we shrug off, sacrificing duty to indulge ourselves. Or, we might have a choice of providing for a friend, or indulging ourselves …

I don’t think we can really sacrifice for ourselves.

There is an example, however, of preserving yourself so that you can be of the most help to others: Lifeguard training.

Odd as it may sound, if a lifeguard is rescuing someone near a pier, and the waves are pushing them toward a large, wooden beam, the lifeguard is to keep the victim between himself and the beam. Why? Because the victim’s bruises and broken bones can be mended when the lifeguard safely gets him to the shore. Getting him to the shore is far less likely if the lifeguard is pummeled unconscious and they both need rescue.

I think we need to watch out for instances where we throw ourselves in the path of large beams, thinking we’re saving some poor victim from another problem, but we’re making ourselves incapable of further assistance.

That’s not really “loving ourselves,” it’s just maintaining our usefulness.

Jesus often turned the crowds away, or went to a solitary place to refresh His spirit in communion with God the Father. While it might seem selfish, or that he’s just “loving himself,” it was actually needed because He was fully man. He needed rest so He could continue his rescue mission.

Wisdom is knowing the difference between self-indulgence and self-preservation for the greater good.

What do you think? Is “loving ourselves” good advice for Christians, or is it just a justification for indulging the self-life?

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11 Comments

  1. So if sin is simply a transaction just between ourselves and God than why is it God commands us to forgive others? I guess as always he is asking us to let His power flow through us because it is only through Him we can fully forgive as He has. In the same way we aren’t actually forgiving ourselves but are experiencing the grace and power of God by repentance and letting go of the past and looking forward to what God has for us.

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  2. I find it excruciatingly difficult to love like God asks. I read that blog and those verses and I think that’s where condemnation tends to live for me. I can’t in my own power be that kind of person who puts others first, loves everyone, and values others above myself. I am a selfish person. It’s only through Christ that I can love how he asks me to, when I fix my eyes on him and not on my efforts as a Christian.

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  3. I dunno, if God loves us, shouldn’t we love ourselves. If God has forgiven us, shouldn’t we be able to find forgiveness for ourselves. Isn’t it a way lower bar to “love your neighbor as yourself” if you have no love for yourself?

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    1. I take the “as yourself” to mean treat others as you would want to be treated. It’s not a prescription for self-love first, as the world presents. Also, the love we have for others should be God’s love working through us.

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    2. I’m not sure there is anything in the Bible that teaches us to forgive ourselves. We should be praising God that our sins are forgiven. And we should forgive others. But a penitent person is mindful of his sin, grateful for God’s grace.

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    3. I think we naturally know how to love ourselves; we are born that way! It doesn’t take a concerted effort to do so. It takes much more effort to put others above ourselves and to show them God’s love that He works through us. We can “forgive ourselves” to a degree in that we don’t hang on to the things we have done wrong and punish ourselves endlessly with guilt. But at the same time, if we easily forgive ourselves and forget our sins, I think it has the potential to cheapen Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. I ought to feel sorrowful when I do things that go against my obedience to God. Without an acknowledgement of my sins; without examining the things I do wrong, I’m not going to really experience nor appreciate the fullness of what Christ has done for me.

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    4. I don’t believe we can forgive ourselves because sin is always a transaction between God and man. However, I agree with Dallas that if we love God, we can love ourselves. Maybe it’s because i struggle a lot, if I’m honest, with hating myself, that I have to practice self love. But maybe I do it differently. I remind myself of God’s love and his promises. But I also know I need time to do things for myself. I don’t think you can love others if you don’t first know God’s love and believe it for yourself. I know when I’m distant from God that I can’t love others. I don’t think we really love ourselves naturally and easily because if we did, we’d love God first.

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      1. It’s true, and Biblical, that we can only have love because God first loved us. Knowng and understanding that love is essential, which is what it sounds like your saying. Maybe it’s semantics here, but I think the notion of self-love can become protecting the self-love which we should be putting to death. But, I know the place we came from has its own twisted spin on this. That’s kind of why I felt like blogging on it. I suspect your true enemy is condemnation … Which is from the flesh that wars with the regenerated Michelle. And the answer, as you pointed out is being closer to God and assured of His love–which is far greater than any love we can give to ourselves.

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      2. I actually was thinking of this after I commented. Anything where we put self first and above is really pride. Self-protection, self-love, self-preservation. It’s not bad to fight for your life, love yourself, or protect yourself but I think when that’s the most important thing–it’s a big problem. I do tend to condemn myself. 1 John talks about how when our heart condemns us, that God is bigger than our hearts and knows all things. That is encouraging to me–that what I think of myself is not what God thinks of me. I see what you are saying though and I think that putting yourself as the most important person isn’t at all biblical. Yes we should believe the promises of God for ourselves as His children and know that we are loved but not be so self-important (there is that pride again) that we think we can’t do the things God asks, like dying to self as you mentioned.

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