Is it Self-Centered to Love Yourself?
Four Healthy Ways to Love Yourself
In a Bible study I attended years ago, a facilitator disagreed wholeheartedly with “loving yourself.” The video teaching had explored the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30), and explained that “loving yourself” involved taking care of yourself so that you’ll have strength to fully love others.
The facilitator, however, said the scripture doesn’t command us to love ourselves, but assumes we already do, that we’re innately self-centered, we instinctively tend to pamper ourselves at the expense of others, and demand our own rights above others. She said that Jesus didn’t mean to “love ourselves,” but to shift our attention away from ourselves to others.
I see truth in her reasoning. Our fallen nature certainly reeks of self-centeredness.Paul had to warn the Philippians to:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. – Phil. 2:3a
But what the facilitator described as “pampering ourselves” and “demanding rights” doesn’t sound like a God-kind-of-love to me. It sounds more like deceitful vanity, pride and idolatry—lies not love. And Paul’s direction to the Philippians continues:
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
– Phil. 2:3b
Obviously Paul wasn’t suggesting we ignore our own needs in serving others. God’s shepherding love tends to both.
But when does”love yourself” cross the line into self-centeredness?
What’s the difference between confidently tending to our needs, and stubbornly demanding our own way? Or the other end of the spectrum, how do we keep from catering to others in an unhealthy way that leaves us run down and frustrated?
The answer comes in remembering that “love your neighbor as yourself,” is only the second-greatest commandment. Jesus also quoted a first, and with the first in line, the second flows naturally:
“You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
This is the first commandment.
And the second, like it, is this:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.“
– Mark 12:30-31
All love flows from God. “God is love, and he who lives in love lives in God and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). Any love we hope to achieve can only flow from what we receive from our Father. When we approach Him with surrendered hearts, souls, minds, and strength, He showers us with passionate love:
The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zeph. 3:17
Spending time in His loving presence, the Lord opens our eyes to His perspective. We see how He loves us, so we can love ourselves the same healthy way. We also see how He loves others, and we love them as He does. In His sight, nothing self-centered survives, only the true mercy that thrives in His Presence. It’s not even a matter of being “other-centered,” but it’s being “Christ-centered”—living His love, not trying to conjure up our own.
Here’s what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like through the lens of “loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”:
Loving God with ALL…
1) With All Your Heart – will, character and emotions*
Loving God is the only way to love yourself (and others) in wholeness.
Open your inner being with complete trust in the Lord’s transforming light. Come with an attitude of repentance and surrender to His loving arms. Let Christ reign on your heart-throne, cleansing away what hinders your fellowship, replacing it with His character of holiness and love. (Prov. 3:5-8)
2) With All Your Soul – personality, life and desires
As Christ trains you, His love and truth extend to others.
Surrender your personality to align with the love of Christ. His Presence becomes your presence, His joy your joy; His desires your desires. As you walk in His presence, His healthy love radiates and flows to others. (I Jn. 2: 5-11).
3) With All Your Mind – intellect
Take the responsibility to love others in your sphere of influence by building your intellect.
Whatever your calling, feed your mind to learn and grow in your abilities. Love yourself by saturating yourself in Scripture and in whatever training will help you reach your fullest potential of loving others in your circle of responsibility. (Prov. 3:13; Rom. 12:2; I Jn. 2:5)
4) With All Your Strength – ability and power
As you glorify God with the ability He’s given you, He brings you fulfillment with confidence to boldly love.
To love others and yourself, invest your talents as the Lord leads with all your strength. “For everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:29).
*Definitions of heart, soul, mind and strength derived from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Giving to Worship – devotions that enrich your life of giving and bring healthy wholeness to your worship.
by Keith Yoder and Cindy Riker
All scripture quotations taken from the NKJV.