In Matthew 22, Jesus says to love others as well as you love yourself. Sounds pretty universal, right? This is the Golden Rule of humanity: treat others as you would want to be treated.
But what if we reversed this thought?
Love yourself as well as you love others.
What if the whole point was that it starts with you? As you love yourself, so you can love others.
While putting together a practice for self-love, I couldn’t remember ever being taught that the Bible says specifically to love yourself well. I’ve always known it was my job to love on others, and somehow self-love sounds…selfish.
But what if it's supposed to start with us?
What if you sometimes feel exhausted and unable to give more love because you are run dry, thirsty for something to fill you?
I recently started a mindfulness experiment of trying to see every human through the eyes of Jesus. No matter who they were, what they said, or how they acted, I ended up viewing them in a whole new light.
But something unexpected hit me while gathered with a few close friends. One of them is well-known for being shamelessly confident. Yet, through the heart she has for others, you know that she never sees herself as greater than anyone else.
In response to one of her typical and hilarious, “yes, I am awesome” comments, God spoke so intimately to me. If he was physically right there in our circle, how would he reply? He would smile and laugh along with us, “Yes, my daughter! You are that and even more in my eyes."
It was as if he turned to me specifically in that moment to say, “and you too, sweet one. You are so much more than you see."
So I started another, and much harder experiment: Looking at myself through his eyes.
I struggle with it daily, but am gently reminded that it is not selfish to "love ourselves in a natural way as to be careful of our bodies; and in a spiritual way, so as to be concerned for our souls and the everlasting happiness of them." *
It is self care to love yourself, and to fill your spirit in a way that lifts you up to the perception of who you are in God’s eyes.
Healing starts by connecting to our bodies again. These bodies aren’t just vessels for holding God’s love in order to pour it out among our neighbors. We are to take it in like a thick, rich, and nourishing oil; letting it seep down in to the depths of our tired and weary souls.
A broken vessel is unable carry refreshing water or anointing oil to someone else, and if left untended will be progressively dry and cracked.
If we want to love others well, we have to mend the unity of our whole selves: mind, body, and spirit.
On my last visit home, I was reminded of this self-love once again in the form of a couple of my dear friends’ little ones. They are at the age where they are totally fascinated with their own reflections, and are obsessed with watching themselves on video. I could not help but love every minute of it.
"How perfect you were when you were a tiny baby. Babies do not have to do anything to become perfect; they already are perfect, and they act as if they know it. They know they are the center of the Universe. They are not afraid to ask for what they want. They freely express their emotions…their smiles light up a room. They are full of love.
Tiny babies will die if they do not get love. Once we are older, we learn to live without love, but babies will not stand for it. Babies also love every part of their bodies…They have incredible courage..
Self-love is not separate from any other love. If we love God, we will love ourselves without selfishness. God loves me as He does you; and you as he does me. This means that I ought to love you as myself...and love myself as I love you. When we love each other in this way, it corresponds to God’s love towards us both.
“For no one ever hated his own body, but instead he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members (parts) of his body.” Ephesians 5:29-30 AMP
We are one. In this scripture, just as husband and wife become one flesh, so we become one in love - of God, others, and ourselves.
The Greek word used here for cherish, "thalpo," means to warm someone up, or revive their health by nourishing and nurturing*. It is used one other time in 1 Thessalonians by the disciples to describe the way a mother cares for her children. Let these words sink in as if God were speaking it to you:
“I am never aloof with you. I take you just as you are. I am never patronizing or condescending, but I care for you the way a mother cares for her children. I love you dearly. Not content to just have you pass on a message, I want to give you my heart. And I do."
Now read it again as if you are speaking to yourself.
And once again as if you were peering into the face of a neighbor.
I honor and see this place in you where God dwells. It is a place of love, light, peace, and joy. When you are in that place in you, and I am at that place in me, we are one.
This is Namaste, friends. This is God’s peace.