FOR most of us the thought of loving yourself smacks of vanity and arrogance. And rightly so. Nothing is so off-putting as someone who constantly thinks of everything only in relation to himself. This kind of self-centeredness inevitably results in loneliness and isolation for the one indulging it. There is, though, a right way of loving yourself. There must be, for how else could anyone obey the Biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself?
In the Bible we find that there is a depth to loving your neighbor as yourself beyond the concept of loving him as much as you love yourself. It's even beyond loving him with as much concern for his well-being as you have for your own, good and noble as that may be. This deeper sense of love includes a recognition of our own and everyone's genuine, spiritual selfhood as the offspring of God.
If we look at Christ Jesus' life, it's clear that he was representing to the world something much more than just a good human. His teaching and his healing works, his unparalleled crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, had a profound spiritual significance. Jesus illustrated what it meant to be the Son of God, and he taught that we are all children of God, having one Father.
But are the children of God sinful mortals? In the Bible we read that God is Spirit. We learn too that He is Life and Love. He is the Almighty, the great I AM, the Holy One, the infinite. Could His creation, then, be of a different nature and substance than its creator?
Jesus showed what man's true selfhood is like in every aspect of his ministry -- not only through his marvelous healing works, which brought to light man's spiritual wholeness, but through his own humanity and compassion. For example, he fed the tired, hungry multitude that had followed him for days. He dined with those considered to be outcasts. At the scene of the crucifixion he asked John to look after his mother.
Jesus was unselfish in the highest degree the world has seen. His unselfish love has had a more profound impact than that of anyone else in history. But was it not perhaps, as well, an illustration of the highest ``self-love'' possible?
Most of us will answer in a self-deprecating way if we're asked what we think of ourselves. It's the subtle argument of evil, though, that tries to get us to discredit ourselves. Whatever tears us down, makes us feel we're bad, suggests inadequacy, inclines us to hate ourselves, is a wrong concept of ourselves. It is not true about the child of God's creating.
Even if we've done wrongly, even if we've sinned -- been dishonest, adulterous, alcoholic, or whatever -- we can turn from this view of ourselves and be healed. We'll find the way to make restitution, live morally, on the basis of loving our true selves as the children of God, and coming to feel God's love for us.
Christian Science offers to each individual a higher understanding of his identity. It points to the Biblical truth that man is the reflection of God, the manifestation of Love. As the sunbeam radiates from the sun, so man emanates from God. The real selfhood of each one of us expresses the Love that is God.
In the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy1 gives what she understands to be the spiritual sense of the Lord's Prayer. The petition, ``And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'' is interpreted, ``And Love is reflected in love.''2 Surely we will be of a forgiving nature when we see that as Love's image it's our true nature to love. When one accepts his true self as Love's good and radiant reflection, he can forsake and forgive the evil that he has previously identified with himself. He can let go of the evil and understand that it has no hold on him as he recognizes himself to be Love's pure likeness.
You can love your real self with a wholehearted, unconditional affection. This will bring you healing and peace beyond what you've ever dreamed possible. And it will give you a reliable basis for loving your neighbor wholeheartedly. You'll be able to recognize and value his real self with unutterable caring. You can learn to love yourself, and your neighbor as yourself, in the most profound, healing way.
1The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17. DAILY BIBLE VERSE God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31