The more you love yourself, the more that Love flows through you. When you do not love yourself, you spurn the Love that is your Source. You get in your own way, and this begins to show in your interactions with others. However, when you rest in the Love that is your birthright and your true nature, you effortlessly overflow with love for others. Your simple existence becomes a blessing to everyone around you.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19) The degree to which we love ourselves is the degree to which we’ll be able to love our neighbors. The Spirit that God has given us is a Spirit of love. (2 Timothy 1:7) If we do not first inhale, then we will not be able to exhale. In the same way, if we do not first receive God’s love for ourselves, we will not be able to share it with others. If you are suspicious that self-love is contrary to loving others, then you will limit your ability to love not only yourself, but others too. The two go hand in hand. Deeper in-breaths enable deeper out-breaths. You do not increase one by diminishing the other. Similarly, the degree to which you fail to love others is the degree to which you are failing to love yourself—no matter how much you say, “I love myself.” True love is abundant and indiscriminate and waters every plant in the garden.
“Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) When we try to love others without loving ourselves, we are attempting to manufacture love. We are attempting to give what we have not received. And when we focus on loving others without actually loving ourselves, we make an idol out of loving. Our egos are very sneaky. Despite our best intentions, we see that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) We snap at our kids and resist helping around the house (this is all hypothetical, of course). What we need is to be filled with the Spirit. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6) We need to open ourselves up to the flow of the Spirit of God, which is Love. Loving ourselves—agreeing with and basking in God’s love for us—is essential to keeping that channel open. When we experience this, we naturally want it for everyone. When we love someone, our desire is that they too would love themselves, wholly and completely and unconditionally.
How do we love ourselves? Perhaps it’s easier to answer this question: how do we fail to love ourselves? What kinds of things do we say to ourselves? My self-talk can get pretty mean and brutal. “Who do you think you are? You’re not so special.” Or I start to believe the lie that my love for myself has to be somehow balanced out with my love for others. That’s like saying, “I’ll take half of infinity and you take the other half.” It’s not love if it’s limited and has to be divvied out. It is impossible to love too much, and it is impossible to love yourself too much. Unless I’m vigilant about my thoughts, showering myself with reminders of God’s unconditional, infinite love for me, old cultural conditioning starts to reassert itself. I start to think self-diminishing, self-belittling thoughts, which makes me feel the need to assert myself and defend myself, and which lately has led to a desperate sort of greediness.
With help from a wonderful NLP practice session last night, I reminded myself of how important it is to guard my heart, taking captive every thought, continually renewing my mind with new affirmations of unconditional self-love and new songs to play in the background of my mind. (Proverbs 4:23; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:19) I had been lacking vigilance in this area, which led to confusion and turmoil. Now I am learning again that the best policy is to take the bull by the horns when it comes to my thoughts, consciously yielding to love and trusting that love is the life force that will keep me safe and functional and at peace. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)