This is a post you’ll need to take a deep breath to read. Grab a cup of tea. Turn off distractions. Close your eyes for a moment and breathe.
I say this because the words you’re about to read are uncomfortably different. These words are not the ones hanging over American culture today in captions, podcasts, and lyrics. They’re not current. Not in style.
Ok, now to the task: what self-love won’t do for you. We’ve all heard the phrase “self-love” tossed around on the daily. How many times have you heard something like this:
“If you just loved yourself more that wouldn’t happen.”
“You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself.”
“You are strong, you are independent, you are enough!”
We like these words. We like them because there’s something true in them. The seed of truth in self-love is that we, as humans, are truly valuable.
Think about it. Where has the cry of self-love come from? It comes from generations of hurting people: called unworthy, crushed by rejection, scarred by self-hatred. It makes sense that all this hurt would birth a battlecry – “Love yourself!” It’s rather simple:
When valuable creatures are de-valued, they try to win it back.
I remember the first time “self-love” sounded like a good idea to me.
My mirror had decided she needed a little more authority in my life. Her job description of telling me if I had spinach in my teeth or bumps in my hair was getting boring – so she rewrote it. It looked like this:
“I, the mirror, am responsible for rating Claire’s worth, which is flexible at all times and depends on how much her reflection measures up to the beauty of every other woman on the planet.”
It was a season of fear and brokenness. Shame over pants that didn’t fit because I simply wasn’t in high school anymore. Self-hatred because I couldn’t beat myself into a shape or shade that mirror would deem sexy.
So, self-love, right? If glass couldn’t call me beautiful, maybe I could. At least I had a little more taste.
It took less than a week to realize self-love wasn’t working. I’ll admit it, I looked up physiological hacks to convince myself I was enough. Some of them almost worked… be mindful, set boundaries, forgive yourself…
Knowing my personality type and forgiving myself were good things. But they didn’t work.
So there I was, 0 for 2, and self-love wasn’t working.
There’s a handy little search-bar in my Bible app. I typed in “love yourself.” Maybe there was a trick to it I wasn’t getting. But when I finished typing the phrase, there was nothing to show for it. Not a single verse in the Bible that says, “baby love yourself.”
My keyboard must have felt my disappointment as I slowly started deleting the letters. But four letters gone and something popped up! Once I was looking for “love your-” instead of “love yourSELF,” I found what I didn’t even know I was looking for.
I found what I didn’t even know I was looking for.
In this verse, Jesus is asked what the two most important commandments are for mankind:
Love God; love people. That’s all? In this verse, Jesus assumes we love ourselves. We think about ourselves; we feed ourselves; we try to make ourselves comfortable… So the task after all was never about learning to love myself.
But still there was a roadblock.
How could I love God and love people if I didn’t feel loved myself?
Bingo. This was the question Jesus was begging me to ask. I knew one thing: my mirror couldn’t validate me, people couldn’t validate me, and I couldn’t validate me. And that’s exactly how it should be. None of these things are big enough to love me in the way I was meant to be loved.
Now I’m going to share with you the scripture that changed everything for me. Again, take a deep breath. Remember that scripture is God-breathed. It’s alive. If you read this, you need to know that it has the power to change you.
First, the context: these are God’s words to his beloved people, Israel, who repeatedly told him he wasn’t worth their attention. They spit in his face, smeared it around, and laughed at his jealous love for them. Just like you and me. But still he says this:
Do you hear the wildness of his love? Will you let it raise your goosebumps, will you let it bring you tears? I wept as I read this chapter again today. Bitterly wept. In those tears I tasted the answer. Self love won’t quiet your cry for love. Only God’s love can.
Self love won’t quiet your cry for love. Only God’s love can.
Let him love you. Dear soul, let him rejoice over you with gladness. All your mess, all you imperfections.
He is the answer.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT
TRACING BACK TO BIBLICAL DESIGNS IN A TANGLED WORLD