“To know ourselves loved is to have the depths of our own capacity to love opened up.” John Main
The other day I read Matthew 22:37-39 where Jesus responded with the greatest commandment. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” To love my neighbor as myself requires that I first love myself. I can only love others as much as I love myself. I can only give away what I possess, so the extent in which I love myself, is the amount of love I am able to bestow on my neighbor. If I have little self love and acceptance, that is all I will offer to others.
For numerous years I didn’t love well, simply because I didn’t like who I was. I hid under shame and low self worth, having little love for myself. Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Believing the lie I’m not good enough, set the stage for me to dislike myself. Besides having little self-acceptance, I was afraid if I loved myself, I would become self-centered and self-focused, so I ran as far away from that possibility.
One of the enemy’s schemes is to distort the truth in God’s Word. I am not encouraging selfishness, but I am promoting taking care of, accepting, and loving God’s wonderful creation named you. When we’re kind and compassionate toward ourselves with all our imperfections, then we’re able to extend that toward our neighbor.
The shift to love and accept myself began by fulfilling the first commandment. When I loved the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind, then I understood how much God loved and accepted me. Spending time with God in His Word and experiencing Him in my life, gave me an awareness of His unconditional love and acceptance. God told me and showed me how He felt about me. Initially it was head knowledge, but gradually the Holy Spirit gave me revelation within my heart. It was that awareness which ultimately helped me to love others more deeply.
To what degree do you love yourself? It is to that same measure you are able to love others. If you struggle with a low self-esteem and don’t like or accept yourself, ask the Holy Spirit to show you His unconditional love and acceptance. That’s a prayer He loves to answer. Then observe how much better you will love your neighbor. The domino effect is this: deeper love for God results in deeper love for yourself, which results in deeper love for others. So go ahead and love yourself.
“Love of God is the root, love of our neighbor the fruit of the Tree of Life. Neither can exist without the other, but the one is cause and the other effect.” William Temple
Relevant Reflections: 1. To what degree do you love yourself and how has that affected your ability to love others? 2. Spend time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open up the eyes of your heart so that you can see how great the Father’s love and acceptance is for you.