In preparation for a recent sermon, I did some reading up on the self-care movement. As with many movements, there is good and there is bad. To that end, I thought I’d take some of the advice or sayings of this movement and hold them up to the light of biblical truth.
“You can’t love others until you love yourself.” | While this popular phrase is most-certainly producing a bunch of incredibly selfish people, there is an element of truth to it. You do need to know that you’re loved if you are to genuinely love others.
But you won’t find this through loving yourself! Self-love is bound to fail you because there are aspects to all of us that aren’t pretty, no matter how much we try to ignore them or change our convictions on what’s right and wrong.
But submitting to God and receiving His love for us gives us an identity that can never be shaken. God’s love is based not on what we’ve done or will do (our performance), but on what He’s done for us (grace). Being loved, and held, and protected by the God of the universe is an identity like no other.
“Choose who you spend your time with today. Hang out with ‘Radiators’ who emit enthusiasm and positivity, and not ‘Drains’ whose pessimism and negativity robs energy.”1 | Are the drains unworthy of love? Isn’t it these people who most need to be loved? Jesus says, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” In other words, focus your energy on loving others over self. You know that thing you wish others would do for you? Do it for them. This is how the cycle of unlove is broken: when you stop thinking so much about yourself and consider others’ needs.
Which, again, brings us back to our need for the unshakable love of God for us. If we are to love others before they love us, and even when they don’t deserve it (which we are), we must be assured that we ourselves have been loved first and when we didn’t deserve it (which we have).
“They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.” (Brene Brown) | Again, there is an element of truth in this. Living for the approval and love of others is idolatry and a horrible way to live life. But completely shutting out others and pretending you’re fine just as you are is no better. I’ll let British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones present the drastically different way that Christianity approaches self-worth:
(When we truly see God)…we begin to see ourselves as sinners. We see ourselves as such vile sinners that we forget that we ever had a right. We certainly see that we have no rights at all before god. We are wretched, foul and ugly. That is not only the teaching of Scripture; it is amply confirmed by the experiences of all who have come to know God in any real sense. It is the experience of every saint, and if you have not seen yourself as a worthless creature I should be very doubtful whether you are a Christian at all. No man can really come into the presence of God without saying, ‘I am unclean.’
Now, Christianity does not stop there; it moves on to an unshakable identity, value and security in the grace of God. But it must start with seeing ourselves as “vile sinners.” And it must start there because if we aren’t completely helpless sinners in need of total rescue, then grace is not that great. And God is not that great. We may find that He is not even necessary, if it is true that we are fine just as we are.
But we aren’t fine.
And He is great
And we desperately need Him.