“You need to learn to love yourself more before you can love others well.”
We’ve all heard it. Some of us have nodded in agreement and affirmation. It sounds like a good solution to our sinful ears. Love myself more? I can roll with that!
More “me” time, less nagging kids.
More yes to me, less yes to others.
The problem is, I don’t see this laid out in scripture anywhere. Not. One. Place.
“And make sure you love yourself before you try to love others.” (Nowhere 1:1 WESTERNIZED CHRISTIANITY VERSION)
The Self-Esteem Lie
Throughout the Bible, we are often called out on our pride, not our lack of self worth. We think we’re pretty worthy of anyone and everyone’s affection, including God. And when we don’t receive the affection we think we deserve, we often pitch a fit.
Truly, apart from Christ, we are not worthy.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
Well, that’s a sobering thought.
According to this passage and others in the Bible, we, in and of ourselves, lack worth. But Scripture doesn’t tell us to love ourselves more or grow in our self-esteem. It tells us, even commands us, to esteem Christ highly.
The fix to our problem isn’t loving ourselves more (we don’t need help with that), but instead developing a deeper love for the Savior of our souls in whom our worth is found.
Often times, “low self-esteem” is just pride with a mask on. Missing from the pages of God’s Word are imperatives to build ourselves up. However, what we do find is the exhortation to be humble and to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). This doesn’t mean we are to hate ourselves but to think rightly about ourselves.
I love this well-known quote from C.S. Lewis:
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
A Call to Prefer Others
As Christians, we are often called to prefer others over ourselves.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10 ESV)
In fact, you won’t find “love yourself” anywhere in God’s Word. But spread throughout the New Testament are calls of action to “love one another.”
The Gospel calls us to focus upward, on God, and to reach outward to others.
The most compelling example of this “God and others first” mentality is Jesus. Throughout the gospel books, we see him consistently pushing his own needs aside to provide for the needy souls surrounding him. He laid down his very life for us.
We aren’t just supposed to clap and say bravo, but instead take part in his ministry of laying down pride and taking up the cross of humility, and loving others at all costs.
You Don’t Need Self-Esteem, You Need God
I was heartbroken over a recent discovery of a therapist who told their client to “take a break from God” in order to find out who they truly are.
Friends, there is no true knowledge of who we are apart from our Creator.
You could waste your life searching in different cities, relationships or hobbies, but no fellow creation can give you a real answer. They are all meant to point you back to God.
If you want to know who you are, search out who he is within the pages of his Word and what you find will shed light on your question.
What I’ve found stringed across the stories, letters and psalms of Scripture is that God is very, very good, and I am not. He is humble and I am proud, he is steadfast and I am shifting sand.
I am very much the opposite of who he is, and that’s what is so amazing about amazing grace.
Even in our darkest night, if we are his, he looks upon us and sees the incomprehensible worth of his Son.
This worth, which is placed on us when we turn to him in repentance, is invaluable. It cannot be earned.
We don’t need to love ourselves more because we have been loved by the one whose opinion is far greater than ours. This frees us to use our lives to build others up in his name and to seek to love him more.
So, please stop telling me to love myself more. Instead, tell me to cultivate a deeper love for the Savior of my soul, the only one who is truly worthy.