How to Love Oneself
He answered: ââLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mindâ; and, âLove your neighbor as yourselfââ (Luke 10:27 NIV84).
Most of us are familiar with this Bible passage. We know we are to love God and our neighbors, and the measure of how we are to love our neighbor is as we love ourselves.
But what does it mean to love ourselves, and how do we do that?
Over the years, Iâve received many questions about the meaning of this passage from people struggling with how they are to love others like themselves. Some question whether loving oneself is the same as being selfish and wonder if it is not then what is the difference?
Answering this question requires that we define what love is and what selfishness is.
Love is the principle of givingâbut not giving just anything, only giving that which is in harmony with Godâs designs for life, giving what is right, good, noble, true, pure, holyâgiving what heals, restores, recreates, builds up, refreshes, nurtures. In other words, love is giving what is necessary to fulfill Godâs purposes. Love is motivated by a desire to bless others, whether God or other people.
Selfishness is rooted in fear, jealousy, and competition with others and is the principle of taking for the purpose of dominating others, rising above others, exploiting others. It is the pursuit of power for self, not for the purpose of blessing others but elevating self.
Some activities of a person who loves self biblically and one who is selfish may look the same on the surface, such as both types of people eating healthily. But the person who is motivated by love does this for the purpose of maintaining the health of their spirit temple in order to fulfill Godâs purposes and be a blessing to others, while the selfish person does it either out of fear of breaking a dietary law and getting in legal trouble with God, or so they can glorify themselves with, for instance, their bodybuilding.
Loving oneself as God designed means we care about ourselves, valuing ourselves as children of God, enough so that we do not poison our bodies with substances that damage the brain, impair thinking, destroy our health, and enslave us to some addiction.
Loving ourselves means we give ourselves healthy foods, reasonable exercise, adequate sleep, hydration, and mental and spiritual restâkeeping ourselves in the best condition possible to be able to fulfill Godâs purpose in our lives.
When we love ourselves, we nurture our souls by ingesting the Word of God into our minds through regular Bible study. We spend time with Godâtalking with Him, meditating on His Word, character, creation, and blessingsâseeking to worship (model) ourselves to be like Him.
To love ourselves means that we are true to ourselvesâwe donât betray ourselves by choosing to do that which we already know is not right for us to do. When we love ourselves, we donât give in to peer pressure or emotional manipulation from others who try to get us to do something that we know is wrong for us to do. Whether a moral issue, such as taking illicit drugs, or a non-moral issue, such as adopting someoneâs pet, if we love ourselves, we only do that which we believe is right for us in harmony with Godâs will for our lives.
What does it mean to love God with all oneâs heart, soul, strength, and mind?
It means we are dedicated to God completely, our entire selves, and, thus, we seek with all our abilities to glorify God and advance His kingdom in all that we do.
Does that mean we donât take a vacation because it would be selfish to do so? Noâit means we do take vacations because we want to love ourselves in a godly way. We want to have rest, time to rejuvenate, to keep ourselves healthy in order to stay useful for Godâs cause.
One of Satanâs traps, if he cannot get good people to choose evil, is to overwhelm them with so many worthy and good projects, responsibilities, and duties that they forget to love themselves; they stop resting and overwork themselves doing good to the point that they burn out and are no longer useful in Godâs cause. Thus, they have not loved themselves by giving what they need in order to stay healthy.
We are to live lives of love for God and others, but that requires we love ourselves in a God-designed way.
This brings us to the first rule of caregiving.
If you are a caregiverâwhether a parent caring for a child, a doctor or nurse caring for a patient, or an adult child caring for an elderly parentâthe first rule of caregiving is the health of the caregiver because if you donât maintain your health, then you cannot provide care to others and will need others to care for you. Thus, it is important to step back and establish the baseline requirements in your life that are necessary to maintain your healthâsuch things as 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, regular healthy meals, exercise, personal meditation and prayer, and Sabbath rest, relaxation, and recreation. And we compromise these routines only for true emergencies, for brief periods of time.
Even Jesus, our Savior and model, regularly took time away from needy people to sleep, eat, and spend time with His Father and friends.
So I encourage you to live lives of love for God and others as you love yourself.