Love yourself. What do you mean? Our society is full of selfishness, but as Christians, we’re supposed to put others first. Right? Let’s take a look. We really are to take care of ourselves.
Isn’t loving yourself and selfishness the same? Absolutely not! While a foreign concept to most, I’m beginning to understand this truth from ministry. We have the tendency to think loving our self is wrong. Loving yourself the right way doesn’t take away from loving others, it actually enables us to it better.
In fact, in order to obey Christ’s commandment, we MUST love ourselves, before we can truly love anyone else.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
What would it look like today, if we did this? We assume everyone would be treated super since we love ourselves so much. Really, based on how we treat ourselves, a lot of moms when packing their kid’s lunch, would throw in a half-eaten donut or candy bar, and a thermos of coffee or a soda, instead of a nutritional meal with a note saying “I love you” tucked inside. Their kids would rarely get new clothes or be involved in any extracurricular activities.
So, how do we truly love ourselves without guilt? By taking care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Then we can truly love others.
In Bernard of Clairvaux’s (1090-1153) Levels of Love, shows a balance between self and God, for everyone, and in all relationships. Here is part of it:
LEVEL 1 I love me for MY benefit
This is normal for babies, but is the most selfish and immature level. Adults living here are considered narcissistic. Some regress here when snapping after neglecting ourselves for long periods of time.
LEVEL 2: I love you for MY benefit
Bernard believes the majority of people live here in most of their relationships. Love is conditional at this level. It’s the Golden Rule backwards.
* I love you because I receive validation and feel good about myself .
* Loving you gives me additional value.
* I need to love you to feel right, safe, strong, and worthy.
Ask yourself these tough questions to know if you’re stuck at this level.
* Do you want to quit making sacrifices because they are not recognized or appreciated?
(If you’re really sacrificing out of love, then why the need to be noticed?)
* Why am I still making sacrifices when others don’t appreciate them ?
Ever heard of ulterior motives? Just asking.
LEVEL 3: I love you for your benefit.
“I’m here to serve with no strings attached.” This level is deceptive, for it’s impossible…can’t take you out of the picture. You’re not a martyr!
LEVEL 4: I love ME for YOUR benefit.
Now, we’ve reached the highest level of love. Truly unconditional, it brings us out of the either/or mentality. Foreign and rare, it means I work on me, build myself up so I can come to you from a position of fullness.
* I take care of me so you don’t have to.
* From fullness, I can empty my love, my gifts, and my actions for your benefit.
* Being my own steward, I need to ensure my health, my calmness of mind, my sanity, and my validation as a person in this world, so you are freed from having to provide them for me…allowing me to serve you without you serving me.
* Validation comes from God and yourself rather than your children, spouse, or friends.
His levels give us much to think about, even if we don’t agree one hundred percent.
No more neglecting ourselves. Only when we’re whole, can we truly take care of our family and others. We must allow our validation to come from God and God alone. The rests are fringe benefits.
Striving for the”I love me for Your benefit” level of love aids in loving others correctly, and fully. Your family, church family, and colleagues will love you more for it!
Now, go take care of yourself – we deserve you at your best!
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