Sunday, October 14, 2012

Love Yourself: Advice for Christians, Not Hippies

In a song expressing a couple getting back together and renewing their relationship, Lifehouse sings the following lines about the female in the relationship...
She said, "If we're gonna make this work
You gotta let me inside even though it hurts
Don't hide the broken parts that I need to see,"
She said, "Like it or not, it's the way it's gotta be
You gotta love yourself if you can ever love me"
I must be honest. When I first heard this song, I thought it was ridiculous, for a number of reasons. I asked myself several pointed questions about the song:
  1. Where are the guys who would work to maintain a relationship like this? Who would actually listen to things like that?
  2. Where are the girls who would work to maintain a relationship like this? Who would actually say things like that?
  3. What does it mean to "love yourself" and aren't we supposed to put ourselves last? 
I still haven't reached any conclusion as to the first two questions, but I want to focus this post on the third question. What does it mean to "love yourself" and aren't we supposed to put ourselves last?

I think that for many people who have grown up in the church, the idea of focusing on yourself is "bad" or "wrong." I do not want to bash the church, but I think having come into this place of semi-adulthood, I am able to take a step back and look at my earlier years. One thing I learned through this taking a step back process is that I was taught at an early age to give up of myself, almost to the point of self-deprecation. 

For example, it was a painful experience for me to realize that I mattered exquisitely to the Creator of the universe. I'm sure my parents told me that I was beautiful, but the idea that I am a lovely creation of the Most High is something I am still grasping. I'm sure I was praised for accomplishments as a child, but when I realized that pride in a good job is not wrong, it blew my mind. When I learned that making excuses and deflecting compliments is a horrible way to act when praised, I was surprised. Isn't it Christian to say something like "No, it was all God" or "Psh, I didn't do anything" when we are complimented after a performance or presentation?

No, it is not. God made you; we all know that. So take delight in what he's done in you instead of belittling yourself. We can love ourselves by respecting ourselves, by taking delight in the good things about ourselves and by changing or learning to appreciate (not dwelling on) the things we don't like about ourselves.

I am also learning that "loving yourself" refers to the adjectives and verbs in 1 Corinthians 13. It means being and doing those things both to yourself and to other people. The first way Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13 is patient. Are you patient with yourself? I think that is where most of us get stuck. There are many times when I simply cannot figure out the homework assignment, or I do a pretty bad job at time management the week a paper is due, or I struggle with repetitive sin for a while. And in those moments, I lose patience with myself. I become upset. I may verbally hate on myself. I may say things to myself that I would never say to other people. This refers to a second characteristic of love.

Gary Habermas, a professor at Liberty University, says, "Most of your pain does not come from what happens to you. It comes from how you download what happens to you." Most of our pain comes from how we interpret what happens and what we tell ourselves about what happens. The second way Paul describes love is kind. We frequently hear sermons about saying kind things to other people, but are we saying kind things to ourselves? Or we filling our minds and hearts with negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves?

I hope I've been able to begin to illustrate that the advice to "love yourself" does not have to be emotional or self-seeking advice for non-believers or hippies, but it can be taken for Christians as well. I want to discuss more ways 1 Corinthians chapter 13 can be applied to ourselves, but I do not have the time. Please stay tuned for my thoughts on demanding your own way, forgiving yourself, enduring, and hoping for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts. I find myself dealing with this as well. We are taught to hate ourselves and love one another, but how can we love one another if we judge ourselves too harshly?