Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Growing up in the church, there was a great amount of emphasis placed on building a personal relationship with Christ. We were also taught that the closer we drew to Christ, the better our ability was to love of our fellow neighbor. Characteristics such as selflessness, grace, and kindness towards others were praised from the pulpit.
Yet one day, I received some feedback that prompted further exploration of this position. I was told that I did not have enough compassion for myself, which caused me to struggle with expressing compassion towards others. I paused, because for most of my life, I had placed a great amount of emphasis on the way I treated others. However, in just one moment, I recognized that I had not placed enough emphasis on how I treated myself. And if love is one of the greatest principles in the Bible, I wondered – do I love myself enough?
Does selflessness hinder self-love?
When we think about character traits that reflect the life of a Christian, Galatians 5:22-23 comes to mind. The scriptures read: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The idea is that if God is abiding in us, our character traits are the “fruits” that we “bear”. Notice, however, that selflessness is not on the list, because the opposite of being selfish isn’t being selfless… it’s being loving.
Selflessness on its own is dangerous. Without the fruit of the Spirit, selflessness becomes unconstrained and harmful. For example, if you’re giving so much of yourself that you become lost in someone else’s life – are you practicing self-control? If selflessness requires you to be so present in someone else’s life that you are neglecting your own responsibilities and wellbeing – are you being kind and loving towards yourself? Even Jesus said in Mark 12:31, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. So if we had to apply self-love to our neighbors, the question we would have to ask is this – am I loving myself enough?
Have I applied the fruit of the Spirit to myself? Such character traits were never meant to be externally facing only. There is no Biblical backing for such a concept. Instead, we have to make sure we are applying these principles to ourselves first, so that we can better apply them to others. I cannot genuinely show you what I don’t have in my own heart. I might be able to fake it. Over time, however, the foundation will start to break, and eventually someone, usually ourselves, will suffer.
But Shouldn’t I be a giving person?
On the surface, it feels good to give to one another. Nevertheless, we also know that we live in a world that glorifies the concept of taking. Society will take your money, time, sanity, and peace without much care to your wellbeing. Such a concept seeps its way into how we treat one another. Taking has been glorified, and so it has become normalized. The better the taker, the better chance they stand at becoming a winner, as defined by our culture. We all know them. Some of us are them, even if only… sometimes. The givers, on the other hand, seem like the ones that are on the losing side of this equation, but that doesn’t have to be the outcome.
Giving is good if the motivation behind it is pure. Now, there are many of us “giving” under the guise that we are doing “the right thing”. But are we? We should never let our need to be validated, to keep up appearances, to not let someone down, to not end up alone, or to reach superfluous spirituality (just to name a few) to drive us to give well beyond what we have to offer. In the end, we will resent the takers, but the harsh truth is that we too were takers because we took from ourselves irresponsibly.
We cannot expect someone else to monitor our actions for us; we are responsible for the choices we make. And if there is ever a question of how much to take from self to give to someone else, think of this: God made Eve starting with a rib from Adam. He didn’t destroy Adam to make Eve; instead, He connected them on a deeper level… which we still feel today.
The Example of Christ
We are reminded that Christ gave His life for us, so that we could have salvation through Him. Yet I am fascinated that during the last moments leading up to His arrest and subsequent crucifixion, Jesus chose not to continue preaching and performing miracles. Instead, He was communing with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. In order for Jesus to give to us God’s greatest sacrifice, He needed God to first pour into Him. What an amazing example of self-care. Jesus’ love for us was so great, but He also recognized what He needed for Himself. In order for us to give our best to others, no matter how difficult, we have to allow God to give His divine strength to us first.
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t a moment of weakness – it was one of courage. He showed us what vulnerability looked like, and what it meant to trust in God during our darkest hours. Through His example, we can see the power in stepping away and tending to self. And while self-care isn’t discussed enough in our churches, I believe that God wants us to make sure we are practicing self-love. Don’t let anyone guilt you into putting your best interests aside simply to meet their demands. We owe it to God to use our time wisely and to honor our blessings. We owe it to ourselves to navigate this life in a way that allows us to foster a meaningful relationship with God.
So, if you ever find yourself ignoring your needs or red flags – be sure to ask, am I loving myself enough? Maybe the answer is yes, but maybe the answer is no. Either way, God is with you every step of the way. Lean into His understanding, and He will lean into your heart. Ask for wisdom and discernment, and He will pour it out onto your soul. We’re living in some difficult times, that will only get worse. I hope we all find the joy that comes from loving God, and the peace that comes with learning to love ourselves.
Thank you for reading. #lovesnactionPrint This Devotional