And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
–Mark 12:28-31 ESV
So, obviously, this verse is not really about loving yourself. It focuses on loving God and loving others, and of course, I don’t want to pretend like it says anything different. Those are two very important things in life, in fact the most important things. I’ve heard this verse preached, and I’ve read lots of great books and articles that talk about loving God and others, about sacrificing your own comfort, time, money, and whatever else. That is valid and biblical and I’m not trying to take away from that message.
However, and this may be largely subjective, but I’ve been thinking lately about the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” bit. Love your neighbor as yourself. Now, I know. We often times do not have a problem loving ourselves. In fact, sometimes we love ourselves much, much more than God or other people. But sometimes we love ourselves much less. I’m thinking specifically about women, but I think this may apply to men as well. How many times do we enforce standards on ourselves (housework, parenting, job performance, etc.) that we would never inflict on another? How many times do we stand in front of a mirror and criticize (or worse) our bodies in ways that we would never criticize another with exactly the same body type?
There is loads to talk about when it comes to loving ourselves too much, and that’s important to talk about. But what about when we despise ourselves, or part of ourselves, for reasons that aren’t justified? What about when we criticize ourselves without real reason? Sometimes, we do need to evaluate ourselves and change. But sometimes we are overly critical of ourselves. I’ve been having a lot of problems with negative self-talk, and I realized last night after talking with my awesome husband that over-criticizing myself isn’t doing anyone any good. Like Jesus said, loving the Lord is top priority. That needs to be number one. And loving others, that’s priority number two. And along with that comes seeing myself in the light of what Christ has done and is doing for me. That means that I’m loved and I’m worth something. And so are you.