Grace, Hope, parenting, Spiritual Growth

Loving Yourself

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

I had a conversation recently with a friend recovering from divorce and adultery. He was talking about how he was struggling to focus on himself, to make sure that he knew who he was and what he wanted. This focus on self was so foreign to him that he was apologetic.

I’ve run into a similar situation with my oldest son. He has avoided confronting a situation for months, maybe even years. He has been completely distraught but hasn’t wanted to stand up for himself because it would leave his brother and sister vulnerable. He is so concerned about them that he has left himself in complete turmoil.

As a wife and mom, I often focused (still do) so much time and attention on my children that I neglected myself. There have been days when I find myself hungry as I am getting ready for bed. As I look back over my day, I realize that I made sure everyone has been fed—except me.

We are taught from a young age to look out for others, that we should put other’s needs ahead of our own. We teach our children to always think about others before we think about ourselves.

While we absolutely must think about others, I found myself meditating on the second greatest command recently. Two interesting realities came to me: 1) It is implied that we must love ourselves, and 2) we must love ourselves before we can love our neighbor.

Have you ever met someone who didn’t love himself? Those people are very insecure. Insecurity often reveals itself through extreme self-focus. Everything in life revolves around the insecure person who doesn’t love himself.

I love how Galatians 5 describes the self-centered, flesh –controlled life in The Message:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom….My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness….It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. Galatians 5:13-21 (selected portions)

This passage, especially the phrase “an impotence to love,” captured me several years ago. It is clearly associated with walking in the flesh, being a slave to the law, being consumed by self. I began to realize that an impotence to love often comes from a hatred of self. The one who does not love himself/herself has a complete impotence, inability to love anyone else.

The antithesis, however, is living in the Spirit. It is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone exhibiting those qualities?

So, if self-centeredness is a work of the flesh and often a characteristic of not loving yourself, how do we love ourselves appropriately? How do we learn to love ourselves so that we can love others?

We must remember that love is an action verb. To love ourselves, we must take action. We must actively care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

After my melt-down last week, I am focusing heavily on loving myself. I can’t even say that I know exactly what it looks like, but I am trying to figure that out. Here are some of the questions I find myself asking:

Who am I? Loving ourselves starts with knowing who we are. We must see ourselves as God sees us, as a masterpiece created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We must see ourselves as valuable, loved, and worthy. We must be able to set aside the voices thrown at us by the Accuser of the brethren that say we are stained, unworthy, broken, and useless. We must replace those voices with the loving, reassuring voice of our Savior.

Then, we must know what recharges us. I am an introvert. I like times of solitude and silence. I like peace and order around me. At this time in my life, the thought of a Girls’ Night Out is almost nauseating. It becomes just one more thing on my already crowded schedule, one more evening where I have to be “on,” able to converse and be alive. Nothing about that situation would make me feel alive right now.

Perhaps you are an extrovert, empowered by relationships. Find those people who will build you up, give you the energy and companionship you need.

What empowers me? I have found that physical fitness is a key to my emotional well-being. When I ran the half-marathon a couple of years ago, I felt invincible! I didn’t care how long it took me to run it; I challenged myself and did more than I ever dreamed I could! If I could conquer a half-marathon, I could conquer the world!

There is something about having a strong, healthy body that recharges me. I have recently made some changes to my fitness routine in hopes of regaining my half-marathon level of physical fitness. I make it a point to listen to sermons or praise music as I pound away at the pavement or on the elliptical. And, it’s a great time to pray. God likes to meet me in the solitude of exercise.

When I am physically fit, I can look in the mirror and like the reflection in the mirror. It’s not about my size of clothes or the number on the scale; it is about feeling strong, capable, and ready to face the world. It is about caring for this temple that God entrusted to me.

What drains me? Sometimes we have to look for the things that are sapping our energy and find ways to avoid them. Clutter is a killer for me. I cannot cook dinner if my kitchen is messy. I cannot function if my house is out of order. I need a somewhat organized (not perfect) home if I am to maintain a state of peace.

As a single mom, there are a lot of things clamoring for my attention. Between kid activities and my own schedule, I have found that it is often difficult to clean my house regularly. I finally decided that it would be worth the peace of mind to pay someone else to clean it on a regular basis. The peace I gain from coming home to a clean house is well worth the amount I pay.

I also stress the importance to my kids of helping me keep things picked up. We all know the laws of the universe that tell us that things tend to go from order to disorder. It’s especially true when we have kids. It takes a team effort to maintain this part of our lives.

What can I eliminate? Sometimes the best thing we can learn is the power of saying, “No.” When our lives are ruled by the next item on our agenda, we lose peace.

As a single parent, this one is essential. And, unfortunately, there are times that I find I have eliminated everything that I can, and I am still overbooked. It’s in those moments that I have to trust God to give me the strength to keep going.

My rules are pretty simple: my kids each get one extra-curricular activity (unless it’s during the school day). I do my best to let my kids have friends over and run around, but I am learning to say no when I need to. There’s no doubt that this season of my life is busy, and there is no way around it. But, sometimes “No” is an essential word in our vocabulary.

What boundaries do I need? Have you ever had someone or something that just drains you? Or maybe it’s just a need for a period of silence and solitude?

My mornings are typically my time. I wake up early before the kids and spend time in prayer and in the word. I enjoy the solitude. I have one child, however, who shall remain nameless. He is my early bird. He occasionally wakes up before 7:00, and he loves to come “enjoy” my silence. The problem is that when he gets up with me, I no longer have silence! And it throws my entire day off.

I am learning that one boundary I need to set is that I am off-limits until 7:00 am—unless you are bleeding profusely.

Why do we need to love ourselves? If we aren’t loving ourselves, we have nothing left to give to others. I pray every day that I would be a drink offering, poured out and used up for others. The problem is that I allowed myself to become completely used up without finding ways to get refilled. We are human. We cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves.

My children deserve the best. I can only give them my best when I am loving myself properly.

I think God planned it that way.

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Loving Yourself”

  1. Your words are on point, I’ve just experienced this personally, and yes I protect my private time from my boys as well. You are blessed & thank you for being obedient to God in sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!! All that you wrote fits what I myself is going through…tired, exhausted and not intimate with my Savior….I need to get back in the program. Have a blessed day!!

  3. I discovered your blog from a post someone shared on Facebook. I like how you write and the clarity in which you see and relate to the scriptures. I am sure your other readers will agree that you are relatable and we feel a connection with you, and that my friend is an amazing gift.

    I like this post in that you are not above seeing the self as a the means of growing closer to God. Most Christians seem to fear putting the self first, after God, as they think it is somehow sacrilege to do so, but in reality you are the center of your world and to put others first creates a blur to the image of God Himself. It is not about being selfish but rather realistic and practical, because if you do not know you, then how can you truly help others? It’s like those that play at religion or piousness and hope that through their devotion and labors they will find favor with their Father in heaven. Look at me Dad! See what I have done?

    Putting deeds before self is like the putting the cart before the horse. We must first know love before we can express it, and to truly know love you must know yourself. For if you cannot love yourself you only harbor self-resent and this inner reflection spills out into the world. It is only from the overflow of the heart that love is then given outward to others and we love others as we love ourselves. It is not evil to know yourself. This intimate knowledge is the cornerstone peace. It is in the shadows of the soul that our demons live, and only by casting light fully within may we see clearly the light of God within the house of the soul.

    So to you noticing the central core premise of the entire Bible I salute you, for the entire Bible is much more than anyone may think by going through the stories at face value. Because hidden in the stories is a treasure trove of truths directed solely at you. The greatest secret most fail to realize is that it is YOU that is the world of Creation. You are the source of all the stories.

    I found you by reading about Jacob who wrestled with God and became Israel, and his blessing to by God. I love your take on the story and consider what you wrote how he never truly knew God as his own till that moment. But now consider the names. Israel means “Perseverance” or “Progress” yet prior his name Jacob meant “Supplanter” which essentially means “Change”.

    Jacob was the means of gaining changing fate from what we are given over to by birth. Esau is the animal self that by birth is our right and lot, but change is not easily won without contention and thus we wrestle with ourselves to become free. God is within us all and we need to contend to understand. This is a lineage of truth that started way back to a world without structure, empty and void of the light of understanding. The world is you that follows a path to mirror God. Consider Abraham, formerly Abram. Adding “Ha” to a name means to infuse it with spirit. Abram means “Exalted father” by translation but in reality it means “Elevated” or “Higher” father, and father represents the foundations of progeneration. The irony of this name is not lost when compared to the New Testament name of gentiles (Greeks) meaning “Miry ones”. The words heaven and earth are user synonymously throughout the Bible, even in the Lord’s prayer. Consider heaven and earth, for this is the center of your inner-being. The seeds of Abraham are the higher ideals that grow incorruptible in the corruptible earth. In the filth grows beauty and perfection. The seeds of the higher-self grow from the clay called Adam, the golem crafted into a man as a self-portrait of its Creator.

    So from Abraham, the foundations of higher understanding comes forth Isaac, the Joy of Irony that is the father of Change also known as Progression and Perseverance. Consider the life of Isaac, his name means “Sporting” as if a joke or playing. But humor is simply the joy of solving mysteries. In riddles and jokes are a mystery to solve and the mind rewards with chemicals that create euphoria that make us laugh. Most ancient jokes were riddles and ironies and thus the life of Isaac is that of irony. He was not to be then is; he is the sacrifice but isn’t, he is to marry one but then given another, his first son is this one but then another replaces him. The life of Isaac is the irony of life where you think you have things figured out but in reality you are only looking into a greater truth.

    So from the Foundations of Higher understanding come the Ironies of life that bring about Change and the ability to Preserver along the journey through life to discover the peace and wholeness-of-self called Jerusalem.

    Be blessed and keep writing,
    Daniel Lyons

  4. Thank you for this post with ideas on boundaries and the importance of loving yourself so you can better love others. I am a single working mom with no family support and my kids father lives 5 states away. I know that only through God’s strength am I able to do what I need to do. I am blessed that I have a job that is not stressful and provides me some down time and friends/neighbors who are there for me. God always knows what I need and provides it. When we give Jesus our heart and receive His love we can love others with His love which is so much better than the love we can give on our own. My friend calls it the “L” effect, love from above which overflows out. God Bless.

  5. Wow did you hit my weak spot. I think we believe that we love others by doing a the things we can for them and never saying no. Unfortunately we drain ourselves and then wonder why we are atruggling your realizations here are in line with a great book I read by Lisa Terkeyrst. It is “The Best Yes”. It is a great book that helped to understand that sometimes I need to say no so I can give my best yes to what I agree to.

    1. I need to read that book! I’ve heard good things about it. Praying God helps you love yourself in the midst of this crazy life! God bless!

  6. I know I may not relate much to what you go through on a day to day basis yet I found so much encouragement in your ( wrestling with God) and Now Loving your self….II just wanted to say thank you and I pray that you continue sharing from the blessing that God provides for you…….

    God bless you always

    Hiram a fellow wrestler

  7. I love your blog and I relate almost exactly to your life… From the single mom or three to the crazy life or bust schedules. I have had an unbelievably discouraging week, actually that is an understatement this week has actually gotten to the feeling of hopelessness, exhaustion and wanting to give up on everything. I have lost faith and I have lost the energy to pray for myself. Two different friend on different days sent me articles you wrote… Which lead me to your blog. The first blog I read was crash in burn which was pretty much my life but different things happened to cause the stress. Despite the fact I wanted to give up for the first time in my life I decide to follow your blog anyway.. Then I was sent the blog on loving yourself… Which is impossible for me these days… I truly Struggle with that for a number of reasons. One reason is I don’t feel god anymore because all the struggles why would a loving god want me to struggle so much? Not only do I struggle like you and all the other single moms out there but I have never felt loved, every man abandons me or leaves me… Why, can’t anyone love me? What is so wrong with me that god will not allow someone, anyone to show me true love… If being poor and having struggles isn’t hard enough god why must I face it all alone in life. No one deserves to not feel important or feel love. Seems like life and being poor would be easier if you had someone to help support you to encourage you… Someone to say how was your day, ad its going to be ok because we are In This together. I’m sorry for the rant but I hate feeling this down, this hopeless and this alone in life and I appreciate your blog and while, enjoy realizing other have issues like mine I still don’t see hope that my situation will improve. My faith that god had a plan, that god would send someone to help was what made me push through all the pain before but after years and years of not change and more struggle I’m losing faith that thing will improve for me. I ask that you pray for me and my children. I may no longer have the energy the strength to pray myself but I still ask you to pray. I pray god shows himself in myself so I can feel him and hopefully regain hope and faith. Again thank you for sharing.

    Sent from my iPhone

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    1. My heart aches for you, Virginia. I understand. I, too, reach a place of hopelessness that things will change. I’m tired of being alone. I want nothing more than to have someone wrap his arms around me and give me encouragement. And yet, I have reached a place of trusting that God has my best interests in mind.

      I think we have to become whole and complete WITHOUT a man. We have to love ourselves before we can truly accept live from a man. We have to see ourselves as God sees us: as worthy, valuable, a princess of the most high God, his chosen one, his treasured possession. If we don’t see ourselves through God’s eyes, we are going to settle for a man who treats us as less–a man who is only using us to meet his selfish desires.

      I encourage you to train your mind to focus on God, to think about all the good things so he will cover you in his perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3, Phil 4:6-9). I encourage you to focus on becoming the woman he created you to be and trusting him with your future. It’s hard, but he can and will transform you, transform your circumstances. Seek to desire him above all else and then he will give you your heart’s desire (Psalm 37:4).

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