Have you ever wondered what it might mean to love yourself? No, I’m not talking about carving out some “me time” or loving yourself with all your quirks and flaws. I’m talking about something different: loving yourself spiritually. What does that mean and why is it important?
At some point, Jesus was asked what he considered to be the greatest commandment. Interestingly, he didn’t simply recite the First Commandment, which demands that we acknowledge only one God (see Exodus 20:3). Instead, quoting from Deuteronomy in the Torah, Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). But he didn’t leave it there. He added another commandment from Leviticus that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (see Leviticus 19:18). And then he explained, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
Jesus is putting the demand to love God and our neighbor and ourselves into one package. Loving God and loving our neighbor and ourselves go hand in hand. That’s remarkable and it might even seem challenging. We could be inclined to put God first, our neighbor second, and ourselves, oh, maybe eighth – since loving oneself might sound boastful or not appropriate. Or, if we’re really honest, loving ourselves could just seem, well, pretty much near impossible.
So how do we love ourselves? I’ve found that it begins with accepting, and not resisting, God’s love for us. Divine Love lifts and redeems; it shows us what we truly are – Love’s pure creation and likeness. God embraces everyone as sons and daughters. Our divine Father-Mother wants us to know how deeply worthy, respected, and cared for we are, since Deity views us as we truly are – perfect, spiritual, flawless. What a fresh perspective that can be for us!
Take a moment to think of a time when you have experienced love. Maybe from a parent or a friend. Maybe you were at first reluctant to accept that outreach of love because you felt unworthy of it or didn’t want to be a bother. But when you did allow it, didn’t it give you comfort, strength, confidence? Didn’t it remove worry and fear? Even more so, when we accept God’s love for us, we are not only strengthened, but also able to see more clearly our true, spiritual individuality, which is easy to love and cherish! The Bible says, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, encouraged all members of her church to accept and express God’s love consciously when she asked them to pray daily: “let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin...” (“Manual of The Mother Church,” p. 41).
Accepting God’s love for ourselves is loving ourselves in the highest sense. It brings freedom, peace, healing. And that’s what we can be doing with our neighbor, too – seeing him or her in the same light of God’s love.
So have a great day – loving God, your neighbor, and yourself!
This article was adapted from the Jan. 19, 2017, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.