This is a blog post I wrote for my counseling site but felt like I needed to share it here also because it resonates with the music we write in so many ways. We write for the broken and lost. To provide hope and an answer. So read on and feel free to comment.
Jesus said “love your neighbor as your yourself” (Mark 12:31). That means you need to love others the way you love yourself. Sounds simple right, but not everyone loves themselves. I have known many people who loath themselves, actually I was one of them. What about these people, how can they love well if they don’t know how to love themselves first.
I run into this question with many of the people God brings my way. It is one of those questions not many people in the church want to answer or really even address at all. Honestly there is no simple answer to this being that one who can not love themselves didn’t just wake up one morning and decide this. It took years. Years of being told they were not enough, they were ugly, good for nothing human beings. In some instances these people were not told these false things but this frame of thought came from shame, guilt or confusion caused by abuse or neglect. One of our best examples of love should be our parents, not everyone has this because of one reason or another. So love to them is distorted.
A few years ago my husband and I got to experience this first hand. Our daughter spent 7 1/2 years in an orphanage being told all false lies about herself from the time she was born. She was treated like the lowest of the lowest. Unable to even understand reality by the time we finally got permission to bring her home. She knew nothing of love. We showed her love when she got home but she was unable to express or show any towards us or herself. She only repeated the lies she believed. It took about a year of repeating in a mirror that she was strong, brave, loved and perfectly made by God for her to start to show a glimpse of love for herself. A year later she was able to love her siblings and daddy. It took a bit longer for her to love mama but God worked it all out.
To love others you have to first love yourself. Not in a prideful, arrogant manner but in seeing yourself through the eyes of Jesus. What does this look like? Here is an example of true, pure love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
How to love yourself well:
• Be patient with yourself and kind to yourself. We all fail at things but be patient and continue work on what you need to work on.
• Loving yourself doesn’t mean you need to brag or have self love as the world sometimes advertises as the answer to all things. Stay humble knowing you have weaknesses, recognizing them, working on them and allowing God to teach you a new way of responding.
• Know you are perfectly, uniquely made by the Maker of Heaven and Earth. You have gifts so unique only you can do. It may be what you have overcome, a gift of art, organization, empathy or encouragement.
• Seeing yourselves through God’s eyes not your own, because our eyes are flawed. His are not!
• This one is vital. Forgive yourself. We all screw up, all of us. There are so many things out of our control. Those mistakes we had control of sometimes have reasons behind them and there are times when our mistakes have no reasoning. But unforgiveness (even of yourself) only builds bitterness, shame, sadness, self hatred, and the inability to love others well.
This is only the beginning. There is so much involved when it comes to how you got to the point of not being able to love yourself but start here. Ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to love; love of self and love of others.
Here is the last point I want to make (and most important one):
God is Love, love is not possible without Him. So if you have not come to know or love Jesus now is the time, He will help work out all this confusion, fear and loathing of self. He will teach you how to love well. Believe, surrender and trust.