“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”- JESUS (Mark 12:30-31)
Lately I’ve been on a journey of learning how to love myself. I’ve realized that this is incredibly important seeing as I will only love my neighbor the way I love myself. So, if I love myself poorly then I will love others poorly. If I know how to speak kindly to myself, show mercy, look after and take good care of me, then I am likely to treat others in the very same way. And then there is the adverse scenario. If I treat myself unkindly, I will do the same to others…etc.
The thing is, I can’t really “love myself” without the help of the Lord and without the help of people. Just trying to go out and “love on me” apart from anyone else tends to fall flat, at least in my experience. On the one hand, I can take responsibility for monitoring and managing my internal voice, meditating on lovely things, and make sure I speak kindly to myself. I can spend intentional time with me doing creative things, going for walks, feeding myself well, pursuing my passions and so forth. But much of the way I look at myself and the filter through which I see life is shaped by my environment, the people around me, the Lord’s Presence and His words over me.
Loving myself well isn’t an independent job.
Loving yourself is about spending time with your Heavenly Father and allowing Him to speak over and into your identity. It’s about letting Him love on you and tell you how He feels and thinks about you. He is your Creator at the end of the day. He made you the way you are for a reason. It is important to tap into His vision as it pertains to you because that is the blueprint for who you are and where you’re headed. And, He is love. Without a revelation of what it means for your Father to BE love, you cannot know how to truly love yourself or anyone else. We must take the tedious and sometimes straight up uncomfortable journey of learning how to sit in love. How to stop resisting the radical, extravagant love of our Father and just be in it…just be with Him…just receive it. Receive how much He loves you, what love actually looks like, and how crazy pleased He is with you simply being you. No frills, no performance, no greatness required.
Additionally, loving yourself is about inviting other people in to the process of you loving you. It is giving others who know you the chance to share with you what they love about you and how they see you through their perspective. It is about being vulnerable, asking real questions, and embracing real answers. It is amazing the fascinating things you will learn about yourself from other people’s vantage points! Not only do you learn how to love yourself through the way people love you but you do it through just being with them, around them, and doing life in super normal ways. You learn from others how they are loving themselves and you observe ways you can grow deeper in love.
You cannot learn to love by locking yourself inside yourself and hoping you come out more loving. If you lock yourself anywhere it should be inside the Person of Love and around those who know how to love! 🙂
Yet…the time you spent alone in solitude cannot be overlooked. It shouldn’t be the only way you learn about yourself but it is still incredibly necessary. How often do you just let yourself sit in silence? Like, actual silence. How often do you take time away from doing things, or being with people in order to just get quiet and reflective (in a healthy way)? One has to become comfortable with silence and lack of stimulation in order to truly quiet the internal and external voices that create internal chaos. In the silence dust settles and things become clear. The Lord’s voice becomes that much more tangible and your true desires, dreams, and nature are revealed. Sometimes the first step to loving yourself is to do nothing at all. It is to sit quietly and wait until everything in and around you becomes quiet. This could take minutes, hours, or days in small increments to build up to, but it can be done.
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” ~ C.S. Lewis, ‘Weight of Glory’
For some of you, you spend entirely too much time alone and for that reason I hesitated to emphasize solitude. For people like you, much of what you’ll learn about love is likely to come through people and at the very least through changing the way in which you spend your times in solitude. For you, it will be about intentionally shifting the narrative you tell yourself in those moments and truly sit in the quiet of God’s love for you rather than your endless thoughts and worries.
For the many others who spend far too much time doing, keeping busy, hanging around people, or staring at a screen, solitude will be like food to a starving belly. Everything in your overly-stimulated psyche will resist the quiet and wrestle to escape the boredom of discipline and meditation on love, but with perseverance your body and mind will embrace the quiet as it’s weaned from it’s addiction to activity and end its resistance. The soul knows solitude is its true salvation.
Everyone wants love. I believe every person wants to be deeply loved and known, at least by one other person on this earth. I also believe that every person wants to be able to give real love back to people; to deeply love and know others; to love well. Yet often times people feel that all they do is let people down, push people way, or experience rejection and they can’t explain why. One of the main reasons why is because they have not learned how to love themselves well. They are holding every person up to the same standards or criticisms that they hold themselves to. They are being just as internally or even externally hard on people as they are on themselves when no one is around to see. It may feel like the most selfish thing in the world learning how to love yourself, but the irony is, without mastering this art you will never love another person as well as you could and you will actually continue hurting yourself by not loving well.
When you see life from this perspective you are able to offer mercy and pity. You realize that when someone is hard on you or ugly towards you in their tone or behavior, you know they act in this way because they haven’t learned how to love themselves and they are as ugly to themselves as they are treating you. It is sad! But the only way to not follow in the same footsteps is to change the way you see and treat yourself.
If God is your Father and your Creator then He revels in who you are. He takes great pleasure in His creation. It brings Him no joy or satisfaction hearing you treat yourself with harshness, impossibly high expectations, or living out of any form of self-hatred. In fact, your disappointment or lack of satisfaction with yourself is to be disappointed with God. How would you feel if you painted what you considered your finest work and then that painting were able to see itself in the mirror and begin picking itself apart; pointing out every flaw, being angry at itself for “not being good enough” or all the excessive ways we treat or think of ourselves poorly? You would be devastated! In the same way, our Father takes no pleasure in your self-deprecation! He wants you to enjoy yourself! Every messy part! He wants you to learn how to love and embrace what makes you YOU.
You will always grow, change and learn and every day become an even better version of who you are today, but that shouldn’t mean you refuse yourself the permission to enjoy who you are right now, flaws and all. The world has glorified an almost self-deprecating form of false humility to the point that people have felt shame to speak highly of themselves or love themselves well for fear of looking arrogant. But the worlds systems and standards are NOT the Kingdom of Heavens!
It is time to love the person you are; the person the Holy Spirit of God has CHOSEN to LIVE inside of; the person Jesus DIED for; the person our Father FORMED fearfully and wonderfully. It is time to love your personality! It is time to love your frame and form! It is time to love the way you think and believe! It is time to love the way you dance, sing, draw, write, speak and act creatively! It is time to love the way you do those little random things you do and the way you spend time alone! It is time to love the way you see the world and the way you walk with people! It is time to love YOU!
It is time to love what God loves and believe like He believes. He loves YOU! And He believes in YOU! He doesn’t associate Himself with things of little value or meaning. You may be small and made of dust but in Christ you share in the divine and are perfectly loved and worthy to be known. You have never deserved the harsh way you have spoken to yourself and you have never deserved the way you focused on your negatives instead of your positives. It’s time to forgive yourself for how poorly you may have loved you in the past and forge a new pathway into love that starts with you receiving and believing in the love your Father has for you and live from that place.
You will not regret it! This is what true, godly repentance looks like. It is the grace-filled choice to come up higher and choose to think and live a different way; a godly way. I promise that when you learn to love yourself well, everything and everyone else you desire to love well will be sucked into the jet stream of movement behind you through the empowerment of Jesus and you will see a dramatic shift upward in every realm of your life! And when you randomly fall back into those patterns or habits of being unloving to yourself and others, show yourself mercy. Speak kindly to you and remind yourself that that isn’t who you are anymore and keep going. It may take a little while to get your sea legs when it comes to true love but you WILL GET THEM! So have patience with your process (remember how patient Jesus is with you everyday!), have faith, and watch what happens.
I can’t stress enough how important and vital this is to living out the gospel. This isn’t about getting a big ego, it is the opposite. It is about becoming dependent on your revelating Father in the ways that truly matter. It is about being brave enough to journey into what true love really is. It is about trusting Him to show you how to live this life the way He meant for it to be lived. It’s about learning how to love what He loves. Being unkind and hard on yourself may feel wise and even look noble, but it is a recipe for disaster. Listen to the song below and let it’s lyrics wash over you with a new reality.
Abounding in love, rest and patience,