Today's post is a triple-latte-get-myself-going post! Lots of thought is going into this. In fact this topic is very near and dear my heart as, for many years I fell for the line of thinking that I needed to "accept" myself and "love" myself. If I can help steer anyone away from the pain of this inward journey, then this is well worth the effort. For in seeking self-acceptance one will find that it is a never-ending quest and eventually leads to more and more inward thoughts and self-examination. Now there is nothing wrong with self-examination, but when it gets to the point of taking your eyes off your Savior and putting them on yourself you become less and less Christlike. You will continue in a downward spiral with the need to have more self-understanding. You will have more questions than answers to your problems. You will eventually not ever like yourself -- the very thing you are seeking. You and I are a big black hole and nothing about us will fill us. Only Jesus Christ can fill us and make us content.
We must ask ourselves, is this what Jesus taught us to do, to love ourselves? Is that something we should be seeking? Or is it outright dangerous to our soul to embrace this notion? Let's take a look at the definition of self-love from the dictionary itself...
Definition of self-love: 1. The instinct by which one's actions are directed to the promotion of one's own welfare or well-being, especially an excessive regard for one's own advantage. 2. Conceit, vanity. 3. Narcissism.
What?? Is that what it says?! Yes, and it doesn't mince words, does it? On a side note it wouldn't surprise me if we eventually find a different definition of it as I've noticed through the years that "certain" words have changed meaning over time, such as the word meek. In the "old" definition it is a noble thing, as it should be, for our Lord said the meek will inherit the earth. The old definition is: mild of temper, not easily provoked or irritated, forbearance under injuries and provocations, humility, resignations. The "new" dictionary definition is: overly submissive or compliant; spiritless. Now to it's credit it does state some of the more admirable definitions as well, but it's interesting to note that it sheds a bad light on meekness, whereas the old one only put it in it's proper light.
So with that in mind I'd like to point out the reasons that seeking to love ourselves will only lead to frustration and spiritual ruin.
Reasons we are not to even attempt to like or love ourselves:
1. We are not meant to aspire to "like" ourselves. Paul said he was the chief of sinners. This is the same Paul who wrote most of the New Testament. He clearly did not overestimate himself and neither should we. We are created to love and admire Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls. We are meant to gaze upon Him and to spend our energy loving Him, seeking Him and worshiping Him, not ourselves. Here's a novel idea -- we are not that special and the sooner we accept and embrace that the better off we'll be. Instead of saying, "I'm strong, beautiful and capable", say, "I'm weak, unworthy and incapable", and watch what God can do through you!! He will be your strength, your strong tower and He is more than capable to do His work through you, but before He can work through you, you must be empty of self. And boy, we are so far from that in our culture. John the Baptist said, "Less of me and more of Him". Let us get back to that! Second Timothy 3:1-2 says it all, "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty, for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy....swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Do you want to be associated with that or do you want to be meek and lowly like our Lord? I hope it's the latter.
2. It is by it's very nature performance oriented. Let me explain -- when we are on a quest to like or love ourselves it follows a certain line of thought which goes like this, "Today I like myself because I helped my neighbor or gave money to that organization that helps orphans", or "Today I'm not very happy with myself because I lost my temper, or ignored a need that was presented in church, etc." You get my point. We tend to analyze our performance. When we are washed in the blood of Christ we are free from that sort of self-examination. Our response when we fail or come up short should be something like this, "I didn't help that person when I should've, but I know that God knows and He doesn't condemn me, although He may be disappointed, but He also knows that I am weak in myself and powerless. So, Lord, help me and forgive me my oversight and allow me another opportunity to do the right thing." Do you see the difference? The weight of the wrong is laid upon Jesus and His forgiveness. It is a not a weight that either you or I can carry. Our sin nature will show itself more often than we care to admit. This is where sanctification comes in....we should be growing in our faith and obedience and allow the Holy Spirit to work out in us the will to please Him. It is so wonderful and so freeing for me since I have grasped this. I am more free and less concerned about "me" and my performance than I've been my entire life. Jesus sets us free from performance, He sets us free to focus on Him and to please Him. When our focus is on Him and not ourselves the result is that we blossom and mature.
3. The quest for self-discovery is rooted in New Age thought and dogma. Ever hear a New Age-r say, "I'm seeking my higher self"? Or, "I'm getting in touch with my 'authentic' self"? What means do they use to get there? You guessed it, they go inward. They go inside themselves and look to their "divine" inner being, for they believe that all people are divine -- you just have to tap into it. This is dangerous, dear one -- don't venture there and if you have already dabbled in it, get out and get out fast!! A wise quote by someone goes like this, "If you look to yourself for your divinity you eventually will end up worshiping yourself". You don't want to go there! Self-love is without a doubt idolatry. Sadly, sadly, many Christian authors advocate the teaching of the New Age philosophy of loving yourself. I can think of one author who I recently heard on a Focus on the Family broadcast..a note of caution: FOtF has become more Ecumenical and Emergent in years past so it doesn't surprise me they promote authors who are pro-Contemplative. The author, Gary Thomas who wrote, 'Sacred Pathways', said, and I quote, "we are to love our neighbor and love ourselves." No, that's not what it says -- the Bible says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Big difference. Here's why -- we ALREADY inherently love ourselves. We already want the best for ourselves...it's harder to love our neighbor so we must be reminded to do so. Martin Luther's commentary on Gal 5: 14 goes like this:
If you want to know how you ought to love your neighbor, ask yourself how much you love yourself. If you were to get into trouble or danger, you would be glad to have the love and help of all men. You do not need any book of instructions to teach you how to love your neighbor. All you have to do is to look into your own heart, and it will tell you how you ought to love your neighbor as yourself.
4. It is the antithesis of what the Bible says. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, "....If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." We are not to seek our own welfare. When we focus on Christ, He will take care of us; we need not be concerned with our welfare. He is our Provider, our Healer, our Comforter....He is all we need. In keeping with the title of the book by Tullian Tchividjian, (this is not an endorsement of Mr. Tchividjian, as I believe him to be an Ecumenist) 'Jesus + Nothing = Everything', if we can grasp this truth we will be the better for it. And you know, the funny thing is when you stop trying to accept yourself and focus on Christ instead, you strangely DO accept yourself -- as the sinner you are, as the weak person you are, as the small and insignificant person you are (in comparison to Him), and all will be well in your world. And accepting that one is not worthy does not mean worthless. Our value is high, after all, we were bought at a price.
My admonition to you is -- reject the current pop-psychology that says we must affirm ourselves and love ourselves. Run from it and run into the arms of Jesus who loved you enough to die for you. It is Him we must worship - not ourselves.
God bless you!