An excerpt from an advice book given to my 12 year old daughter:
“Above all… love yourself! Loving yourself and learning to accept all your quirks is…. truly the most important thing you can do to boost your self-esteem. Whether you start by recognizing the little things or completely fall head over heels for your fabulous self, you can start your journey to promote self-love.”
I threw it away.
I thought about just ending this whole piece with the aforementioned statement. But somewhere between “mic drop” and “well, that was arrogant,” it may be helpful to see why I responded that way.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
“…For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
“‘You shall shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
I cannot reconcile the two messages. Can you see the dilemma? I cannot possibly love myself above all AND love God above all (“with all my heart/strength/mind/might/soul”). So, this means I have to choose. I’m tempted to say this issue is layered and complicated, but really, it isn’t. This isn’t about human dignity or value. The heart of the problem here is a problem with the heart. If I love myself above all else, then nothing else matters. If I love myself above all else, then nothing else matters, because loving myself is the only thing that matters.
How can we commit to Love Ourselves Above All Else and Love the Lord our God With ALL of Our Everything? We can’t. It seems that loving all involved with a whole-hearted “die for the whole world” kind of love belongs to God alone. So, human love doesn’t have the capacity to engulf ourselves in a whole-hearted love that also gives the same attention and affection to something bigger and more superior to us simultaneously. To love something above all means I’m going to go head first and forsake other things because what I’m pursuing out of love is most important. If I teach my daughter that she is number one and to “love herself above all,” then that also means that the lesser thing is forsaken. If she’s first, then God cannot be. If I’m first, then God cannot be.
Know what the ironic thing is here? When God is first, all these other things are added to us.** The other ironic thing? In order for us to love ourselves above all else, unable to commit to loving God above all, then we do the one thing that God promises to never do, which for Him, is to never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). If I want my daughter to be kind, compassionate, considerate, and a host of other desirable characteristics including loving, then how could I possibly expect that her pursuing “self-love” above all is going to produce an outward focused human?
Throwing away books might not be your thing. But… what message is taking up space on your shelves? That poor book. I did toss it and not only that, but I took liberty to re-write the author’s paragraph using a different Book I own. Now, you try.
“Above all.. love the Lord your God! Loving yourself and learning your quirks is… truly the most important thing you need to surrender. Whether you start by expressing gratitude or completely fall head over heels for the God who created you, you can start your journey to living a life built on a strong foundation.”
*Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 30:6, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27
**Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”