Those who have been believers in Jesus for very long are quite familiar with the first Two of the Ten Commandments, which Jesus said were the two greatest. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” is what He said. (Matt. 22:37-40) We hear a lot about loving our neighbor, doing good for others, helping the poor, etc. But we hear little to nothing about loving ourselves. Yet, if you break down what Jesus said in terms of priority, it would be:
- Love God with all your being
- Love yourself
- Love your neighbor
He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we can’t love our neighbors the way He would have us to until we first learn to love ourselves. Most believers would claim that is selfish and even against what Jesus taught. But is it really? Do we ever stop and think about what it actually means to love ourselves the way God wants us to? If we think that the love He is speaking of is selfish, greedy, or self-indulgent, we are wrong. That’s not biblical love. Biblical love is desiring and doing what is best for the beloved, no matter what the cost.
So what does that kind of love look like when we refer to loving ourselves? I believe it means many, many things, but for the sake of space, I will list some of the most important ones. Loving oneself, I believe, means (not necessarily in this order):
- Taking care of your body – getting proper sleep, exercise, eating healthy, avoiding toxins as much as possible.
- Setting healthy boundaries – taking time for yourself, for leisure, hobbies, personal space, quiet time, rest. Saying “no” whenever necessary in order to have that time.
- Taking care of yourself emotionally – learning healthy ways to release negative emotions, receiving inner healing, forgiving those who have hurt you, be a human “being,” not a human “doing.”
- Taking responsibility for your spiritual health – spending time with God each day, in His Word, prayer, worship, fasting, journaling, your own personal expressions. Also just resting in His presence, letting Him love and minister to you is so crucial. Seek to see yourself as God sees you, this is key to loving yourself the way that He does.
These are just a few ways you can begin to love yourself. Each one could include a list of things you can do, and some things you need to avoid as well. I see and hear believers nearly every day say the worst things about themselves. Many go so far as to even hate themselves. When we do that, we grieve the heart of our Father who created us in His image and loves us infinitely! If we struggle to love ourselves, we are really struggling to love God. When we receive the revelation of God’s great love and passion for us, in spite of our sins, flaws, weaknesses, imperfections, failures, etc., it is easy to love ourselves the way that He does. Then we can truly begin to love our neighbors, because He loves all of them just as much.