Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.
I had a distorted image of myself as I was growing up. After experiencing verbal and physical abuse from my parents and peers, I was convinced that I was a lower species of human who did not deserve love and respect from other people. I believed I was stupid, ugly, and awkward, just like they said. I tolerated the hurtful behavior of my parents and bullies because I thought I deserved it.
When I started to explore the Bible and hang around with Christians, I wondered what loving myself really meant. Jesus said that we should love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37). That statement acknowledges that we do love ourselves, but how do we do that?
Extreme Views on Self-Love
Some Christians find the idea of loving themselves to be repugnant. They put themselves down as miserable sinners who are unworthy of love. They are hard on themselves when they make mistakes or sin. They flog themselves over and over again with shame and guilt about their past transgressions.
Loving Themselves Too much
Some Christians go to the other extreme of becoming too full of themselves. They are judgmental and self-righteous. They are driven by selfishness, pride, and arrogance.
As Christians, we need to find a balance between the two extremes. We are to live as beloved children of God and walk in the way of love (Ephesians 5:1). We accept that we are sinners redeemed by God’s grace.
A Definition of Self-Love
On the one hand, we Christians need to recognize that we are sinners who are weak and lost without God. No matter how hard we try, we will still fail because of our human nature (Romans 7:14-20). It is difficult to love ourselves when we are in a sinful state.
However, we have an opportunity to change the way we are through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If we sincerely repent our wrongdoings, we can be cleansed and be in a relationship with our God as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God sees us as His beloved children. We can call him “daddy” instead of the more formal “father” (Romans 8:14-18). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and we are more than conquerors over anything through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37).
Steps to Loving Yourself
Do Not Let People and Circumstances Define Who We Are
As a child, I allowed other people to label me as stupid, ignorant, ugly, and clumsy. I suffered from low self-esteem and fear of rejection. As I learned more about becoming a Christian in my late teens and early 20s, I started to challenge this self-view. Through Christ, I learned that I was a beloved child of God who was competent and had value. This knowledge empowered me to seek out my strengths and use my talents for God’s glory.
Value Yourself as a Child of God
Some Christians turn to various means to achieve a sense of self-worth by enhancing their appearance, achieving high education levels, doing good deeds, and having great careers, wealth, and material goods. Some use service at church and other work to feel good about themselves. However, our attempts at righteousness are like filthy rags to a holy God (Isaiah 65:6).
Our works do not make us righteous - faith does (Romans 3:20-21). We believe that God values and loves us even when we were sinners. He provided us the way to become his beloved children through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
Our bodies are to be offered as holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). We are temples where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16). Therefore, we should love our bodies by taking care of both our physical and mental health. This is a message we hear a lot these days, but one we need to address. We can take care of ourselves by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising.
I recommend The Daniel Plan, a book with a structured Christian healthy living plan that covers all the basics. The book, study guide, and resources such as articles and devotions available on the website danielplan.com.
Let Go of Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame serve a vital role in our lives as Christians. These emotions make us aware of things we have done wrong and lead us to repentance. Once we have repented, though, we should let go of these negative emotions. These feelings are only meant to be temporary.
When we sincerely repent with godly sorrow, God makes us white as snow. God forgets our sins and makes us a new creation. We need to let go of guilt and shame the same way Paul told the Corinthian church to do after he had pointed out their sins (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). There is a big difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow such as continually putting ourselves down and berating ourselves is self-destructive.
We know as Christians that we should forgive others but may not realize that we should forgive ourselves as well. God’s grace and mercy covers all of us (Ephesians 2:3-5).
Some people are concerned that loving themselves is the same as being arrogant, vain, selfish, and entitled. There is a difference, however, between healthy self-love and these negative qualities. Pride is behind them – something God hates. The Bible says that no man should think more highly of themselves than they should (Romans 12:3). We should be humble to counteract these negative emotions.
Building a balanced self-love and self-image takes time and effort. It is easy to go to the extremes of either self-loathing or pride and arrogance. However, these steps can help us develop the healthy love of ourselves that God wants for us.
References: Holy Bible, New International Version
© 2018 Carola Finch