by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength… Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NLT)
How do I love my neighbor… my brother… my children… if I don’t love myself?
The thing is, to not love, care, or have concern for yourself would mean that you are indifferent and completely and purely unmotivated out of absolute selflessness to do or be anything. You need to let that marinate and soak in for a bit since on the surface it may not seem to make much sense.
Unmotivated to do what? It doesn’t matter. To deny yourself from an absolute disposition of selflessness without intentions of any kind would ultimately result in your death. What??? What could that possibly mean? To not love yourself would be to be indifferent to your own needs—to care not at all about anything or anyone, beginning with you. Nothing would be of importance to you or necessary in any way. You certainly wouldn’t want anything. I’ll say it again: if you did not love yourself or hold yourself in importance you would be unconditionally indifferent to your own needs, without want for anything.
You might starve. You might dehydrate. Why? Because if you do not care about yourself, no concern for you, why eat or drink? Why do anything? Why not do anything? Why go? Why stop? You would only sleep because you passed out from fatigue. Fatigue from what? From being alive at all, I suppose. There would be no incentive to get up nor to stay in bed. Why would you? Why would you be happy or sad or mad? Why would you be excited or bored? If you itched, why scratch? What would be the point? Why would you be interested? What do you care? Why would you care? You’re indifferent. To not love yourself is to not love at all. So Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. If your love for self is motivated by anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, betrayal, rejection, abandonment, hatred, vengeance, guilt and shame, etc., I suppose that’s pretty messed up.
A little confusing so far making sense of where this is going? Please bear with me because I believe this is critically important for so many who are hurting and struggling with the way they see themselves. I am suggesting that even though you might feel hatred toward yourself for choices you’ve made or how you have reacted to abuses perpetuated against you, that you do have positive regard for yourself motivating you to in some way improve your situation; even if the things you do prove to be destructive against you and others affected in the scope of your activity. Positive regard does not necessarily mean you emote positive feelings for yourself, it does mean that you are important enough to you to do whatever you have to do to “remedy” your discomfort; which may in the end result in increased discomfort and pain.
Even to say that you hate yourself is to admit that you care enough about yourself to hate yourself. And since concern, compassion, and passion fall under the love category, you really have to love yourself to hate yourself. Alright, so maybe that still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense so please continue.
I often have this discussion with clients since they have come to believe that they are addicted to alcohol and drugs and do what they do because they are self-destructive and need to love themselves again. Then I come along and suggest that they already do love themselves and that there is where the problem lies that lands them in prison time and time again.
“How can you suggest that I love myself when I can’t stop hurting myself and those I love and keep ending up in this place I hate?”
Surveys of folks in treatment tend to suggest that most have low self-esteem while indicating higher marks for risk-taking, justification, and rationalizing behavior. I am suggesting that low self-esteem would suggest lack of regard and consideration for one’s own needs but high marks in the other categories mentioned would suggest these prisoners go through a lot of trouble and difficulty attending to their own needs, breaking the law to overcome major obstacles getting in the way of what they believe they want, need, and deserve.
The results of these studies would also suggest that questions regarding self-esteem center around feelings of past abuse and neglect, feeling under- or unappreciated, issues with betrayal and rejection, lack or absence of healthy role models, and so on. If survey questions for self-esteem indicators were measuring attention to one’s own wants and needs and the effort that goes into securing them, the indications for self-esteem would rate much higher.
This question brings us back to the problem of self-centered entitlement. What motivates someone to continue taking risks? Why use drugs and alcohol? Why medicate pain? What break the law? Why forsake loved ones in desperate search for a remedy? What compels a person to do anything, say anything, or go anywhere? What is the motivation?
The motivation is love for self. Wants and needs instinctively evoke emotions that stimulate motivation and intention. All desire comes from a place of self-love. Whether the desire is righteous or unrighteous is beside the point. Desire is always rooted in self-love constantly feeding into a core belief of entitlement.
We all get high—gratified—in our own way. Maybe the high is chemically induced. Maybe the high comes from a cold drink of water or beverage of some kind when my throat is parched. The gratification can come from a meal to satisfy my empty stomach. Maybe the high comes from saying something to you that provokes something nice that you say back to me. Maybe it comes when I say something to you because I am angry and it needed to be said. Maybe the high comes when I experience relief from weariness or pain. You get the idea.
Drug addicts, including alcoholics, often admit that they use because it replaces something that is missing; it’s filling a void of some kind. Addicts will often speak of a history of adversity in their lives; memories perhaps of a tortured past. Most of my clients come from a history of abuse and neglect and grew up to model what they witnessed and experienced. Addicts turned to drugs from a place of really poor self-esteem. People who have ventured in and out of abusive destructive sexual relationships may not feel like they are worth anything at all. They all may have come to not like themselves very much but… that’s right… they in fact have love for themselves. It is love that is sick and selfish and destructive but love nonetheless.
Esteem is defined as “favorable regard… respect… consideration…” Poor or low self-esteem would suggest poor or low regard for self; a lack of self-respect; a lack of consideration for self or one’s well-being. I am not attempting to debunk the whole idea of what self-esteem is or isn’t. I might, however, be suggesting a paradigm shift in how self-esteem is discussed clinically and in general.
We all do what we do in pursuit of something better than what we have and what we are. If what we have are feelings of physiological deprivation, we will seek a remedy to feel better. If we are feeling psychologically deprived and emotionally wanting and needy, we will seek a remedy to feel better. The need for remedy and gratification is not partial or respective of anyone. We are all addicts of pleasure and relief. It is in our nature to protect our innermost self to survive.
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NLT)
If I am wounded I need and want healing. If I hurt I need and want relief from the pain. If I am tired I need and want relief from fatigue and weariness by way of relaxation and sleep. If I am anxious I need and want comfort from my anxiety. If I am immobilized by the pain of guilt and shame, then I need to escape the pain. My methods might be painful and destructive to myself and others but make no mistake; I was motivated by my need for something better than what I have and where I am at. And I care enough about myself to be about doing something about it.
The addict, the codependent, the approval seeker, the loner (isolated), the self-protector (insulated), the aggressor, the passivist, the ambitious, the greedy, the fearful, the anorexic, the bulimic, the compulsive eater, the compulsive liar, the victim, the villain, the wounded, the burdened, the lover, the hater, the giver, the taker… despite their differences, all have love for themselves and engage in thinking and behavior that reflect the regard they have for themselves. They each seek gratification of some form on some scale.
The behavioral distinctions between healthy love and sick love (otherwise known as hate) can be found in the following Scripture:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature—motivated by sick self love—the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these… But the Holy Spirit—who inspires healthy self love—produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… Galatians 5:19-23 (NLT)
Healthy love produces fruit while sick love produces sin, and sin when full grown gives birth to death. When we talk about sick love for one self, even the feeling of sick love is dark and ugly. Self hatred is the effect of sick love for one self. Whether this is for you or someone you know that is lost in self-destructive thinking and behavior, this matter of sick love versus healthy love of self is of crucial importance and could be a matter of life or death.
Beyond addiction and morally dysfunctional relationship nightmares is the very real problem of suicidal thinking and behavior. The notion that suicide is the ultimate act of morbid self hatred and disgust can be more fully realized in the light of self hatred produced by sick love of self. If it can be communicated to someone in danger of harming them self that perhaps he or she really does care and have concern even for him or her self, and that despite one’s denial of this truth, suicide is actually the desperate act of love, a very sick love for him or her self, maybe… just maybe… the person can be convinced that with help sick love can be converted into healthy love for self. Maybe there’s a chance to fend off a desperate act full of the uncertainty that lurks on the other side of such a desperate act of sick love. Escape from one thing through death might feel certain but escape from a thing is to enter in to something else far less certain; a frightful mystery.
So why is it so important to have a healthy love of self?
Important to a healthy love of self is first extending the invitation to Perfect Love to be intimately involved in your life? It is the Spirit of the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ who is Perfect Love. It isn’t merely what He represents or what He can give to your life. He is Perfect Love.
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:7-18 (NLT)
It is in relationship with Christ that we experience healthy love alive in our being. Please believe me when I say that it is not about being religious. Not at all. It’s about knowing Jesus who is Perfect Love. Healthy love is such a precious commodity these days when we are surrounded by such a prevalent culture of sick dysfunctional love.
If you or someone you know is struggling with this today, please share with them the evident truth laid out in this article. It is important to remove the stain of self-hatred and the notion that self hatred need be medicated by remedies that altogether destroy lives. Let it be said that self hatred is sick love and self pity feeding into misdirected misery by way of potions that do no more than to promote even greater misery. It serves no purpose other than increasing your pain and dissatisfaction. If you didn’t care about yourself you would be indifferent toward your inner self at the core and you’re not indifferent. No one is.
“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:19-21 (NLT)
“Huh? I thought you said no one is indifferent but then here is this passage from Revelation, and there’s Jesus saying to turn from your indifference.” Jesus is addressing a kind of indifference we might have when it comes to the commands and promises of God in relationship with Him. Because of pride and insecurities, I might not invest much into the life that God has for me. That might be turning a blind eye of indifference should I not know to believe in God because I’ve never really been informed. Should I not comprehend the truth about something I might not know to heed or adhere to what is being said about it. Things are said by people everyday that I do not care about because I simply don’t know to pay attention to them. But I am always paying attention to me on some level.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)
Especially to someone raging on the inside with anger and hostility; for someone who is afraid to put their head down knowing they can’t sleep with the tumult spinning their thoughts into the deep, or afraid to wake up to the isolated loneliness that comes with another day; Jesus is asking for a chance to calm that sea and ease that burden. If only you would let him in. He is able and will bring peace to a weary heart, and joy to a troubled spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:2-5 (NLT)
Let Perfect Love into your life and see what happens. Notice how the spirit of fear in you is changed into something courageous. Wouldn’t it be something if that bitterness your carry turns sweet and you literally sense all that inner resentment melt away as you grow in unveiling wisdom that allows you to see things as they really are from a much “higher” perspective. Wouldn’t it be something to be renewed into something far better than you are that allows you to once again see yourself as God sees you. How does He see you? He looks at you and sees Perfect Love alive within you; seeing the presence and beauty of Jesus all over you. Allow God to renew your mind and restore your joy.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
The original Greek word for transform is ‘metamorphoo’ from which we get the word metamorphosis. It is the word that means for a caterpillar to change into a butterfly. You might feel sluggish. You might feel heavy and ugly in your spirit. Let God change your mind about yourself. Let Him help you to love yourself again with a healthy love, which you already read produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if you believed these things about yourself. Not only would your love for you be healthy but you could love God from a healthy place and love your neighbor with healthy love since you love your self that way.
Wow. Wouldn’t it be something.