In Galatians 5:14, we are instructed to love our neighbors as ourselves. But how does that work if we don’t love ourselves? What does it mean to love oneself?
So often in Western culture, we associate love with passion and romance, the feeling of butterflies in the stomach as a preteen or what is actually lust mislabeled. What if we embraced love as a verb? What would that look like? What would it feel like?
In the scriptures we find direction to give and are told it will be given to us pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into our bosom. We are told judge not lest we be judged. We are told that to have friends we have to show ourself friendly. There’s a lot of action in these verses. And frankly, feelings don’t really enter into it.
What must we first give to ourselves before we can give to others? Or do we always start at the point of giving to others and find fulfillment flowing into our hearts and lives and informing how we treat ourselves?
I believe that we are to prefer one another in love as the Bible says. And I believe that in order to love my neighbor as myself, I’d better be on my own team and loving myself by recognizing who I am. I was made in the image of Christ, set apart to do good works that He has fore-ordained or predestined. If He loves me and has forgiven me, then it follows that I should do the same.
What does that look like operationally? Sometimes it can look like setting a boundary which will help oneself and their neighbor to be better at time management, have healthy interactions or attain in some other aspect of the maturation process. Sometimes it can look like taking yourself out for a cup of coffee or to the day spa. Other times, it may look like just being overwhelmingly kind to yourself by not putting too much on your plate and forgiving yourself when your plate has overflowed.
For many of us, I believe it can often be easier to show these various good attributes to others than to ourselves. But then how are we following the scripture to love our neighbor as ourselves? If I’m constantly beating myself up and judging myself harshly then am I not actually disobeying this command and dishonoring the Lord by not holding the view of myself that He holds of me? If I don’t love, how can I love? How can I give that which I have not allowed myself to receive from the Father Above? If the gas tank is empty, the car isn’t going to move. I believe that we do oftentimes get pulled out of our own emotional sinkholes when we bless and help others. I also believe that we are the best models for our children, friends and neighbors when we live authentically and that part of that authenticity is engaging in compassion for the self.
So are we left with allowing self-compassion to be manifest in real time with God filling us and putting His goggles on us so that we see ourselves the way He sees us and allowing that to flow out to our neighbors? Maybe that is part of seeking peace and pursuing it. for I believe, that one must have internal peace before they will have lasting external peace.