What did Jesus intend in the gospels when he instructed us to love our neighbor as ourselves? While some of us struggle to process whether it’s Biblical to actually love ourselves, many of us struggle by seeing ourselves negatively at a core level, believing we’re not worthy of love. Because we are often unable to understand our own self-rejection and self-abandonment, we become unconsciously driven by strategies to earn or manipulate in order to attain love. A belief such as, “If only I can do that or please that person or accomplish that goal… then maybe I’ll be loved” may be an unrecognized motivation.
Self-Reliance Contributes To Pride
When we choose to find our own methods of dealing with our sense of unworthiness, our decisions are made independently of God’s best for us. As difficult as it may be to face this reality, we are essentially fooling ourselves by believing “I” can overcome my problems and the problems of others. While we may not love ourselves, we become exceedingly self-reliant. This is called pride. It is always self-centered, never God-centered, and is often motivated by fear.
Seeing that we are prideful and fearful can be enormously difficult. After all, we seem to be living sacrificial lives – serving, giving, attending, and so on. It’s everyone else that seems to be selfish! Yet, if we are totally honest with ourselves, we are often motivated by the need to self-protect, to get our emotional needs met, and to control outcomes, circumstances, and the behavior of others. Those are all self-serving motives and survival behaviors that have pride and fear at the root.
Pride is simply “I can do (or have done) this on my own.” It’s not necessarily feeling puffed up about ourselves. Fear-based pride can tend to make us compare ourselves with others, leaving us “better than” or “less than” them. As sinful human beings, we are self-centered by default. Pride makes us see everything in life through our own point of view, needs, and desires. In our selfishness, we are very capable of doing nice things for others, yet still being motivated by self-serving purposes.
Self-Love Does Not Mean Self-Centeredness
Admitting our self-centeredness is a vital key toward genuine life change in Christ. This awareness can lead to a true sense of brokenness and the realization of our need for an honest, intimate relationship with God, where nothing is hidden from Him or from ourselves.
When we are finally willing to begin to get ourselves out of the way and let God fully in, we will experience the type of self-love that leads to healthy, honest intimacy with God, with ourselves, and with others. It will no longer be performance or approval based, but based in the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. From this foundation is how we are then able to love others as we love ourselves. Through growing intimacy with Christ, He teaches us how to see the world and ourselves through His perspective. We discover that, in Him, we (and others) have immeasurable value, worth, and a unique set of gifts and talents.
Refusing to see our value in who we are in Christ doesn’t mean we’re “humble”, as some have been conditioned to believe. It actually indicates allowing ourselves to stay in that self-centered mindset. Without a Christ-centered attitude, we can continue to replay old tapes in our minds, speaking lies about who we are. We become bound by trying to overcome those negative perceptions of ourselves, and become consumed with self; thus, the negative cycle perpetuates.
Healthy Self-Love Versus Selfishness and Pride
|Healthy Self-Love||Selfishness and Pride|
|I have the ability to accept the person God made me to be, with all my strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.||I focus on myself and all my insecurities and flaws, and believe everyone else is focusing on them too.|
|Since I am forgiven by God, I have the ability to forgive myself. I understand that “who I am” and “what I do” are entirely separate.||Since I haven’t fully grasped God’s forgiveness for me, I am unable to fully forgive others or myself. I feel I must pay the price for my actions or attempt to undo them independently. I feel my actions or the actions of others against me justify my sense of worthlessness.|
|I am able to recognize and embrace my skills, abilities, and authentic identity, knowing that everything I am is to be used for God’s glory.||I am attempting to measure myself by the people around me, constantly searching to see whether I have enough to offer. I often feel either “too good” in some situations (pride), or “not good enough” in other situations (fear).|
|I understand I have inherent worth, value, and ability to love and be loved based on my righteous standing in Christ Jesus, only through His shed blood on the cross, and not by anything I could ever do.||I try to measure my worth by the things I do, the sense of accomplishment I attain, my efforts to fix people, and my own attempts to be “a good person.”|
|I am dependent on Jesus Christ and I can do all things through Him.||I am dependent on myself, and others are often dependent on me too.|
I believe God is calling out an army of authentic, transparent warriors whose transformed lives will speak into others the help, hope, and healing we’ve found in Jesus Christ.