The amount of love you show your neighbor reflects how much you love yourself.-Tessy Igbinoghene
The second(great commandment) is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. St Mark 12:30
I recall a story two decades ago by a well known Christian author Josh McDowell, who was also considered an expert in speaking on relationships and Christian Apologetics.
His brief story of a brief encounter not only profoundly impacted and changed him, but influenced and changed me forever.
Josh had been traveling around the country on his speaking engagements when he got on a plane this particular day and was seated next to a certain woman. He noticed the woman had a dozen lavishly arranged roses and struck up a conversation with her. While verbally admiring her roses, Josh made reference to her husband buying her the flowers.
Well, to his astonishment the woman stated to him that she had bought them for herself as a gift. After a pause, he asked her why did she buy flowers for herself. The woman stated, “because I like myself.”
She explained to Josh that when you like and admire someone, you tend to buy them flowers. Josh said that as soon as he got off the plane, he immediately bought himself two dozen roses!
His messages of love, intimacy and relationships had significantly been impacted from that moment on.
The art of loving has perplexed the world over as the difficulty in expressing love, maintaining love, enduring love, and most of all, receiving the love that we desire has gripped us.
This woman tapped into outwardly expressing the greatest love of all, as the songwriter puts it, loving herself. Dr. Margaret Paul of Inner Bonding says, “we cannot give to another what we do not have within.”
What I have found over the years is that actively expressing love to myself not only enhances inner security and self-worth but has also enhanced my ability to express love to others in a myriad of ways and expressions. Love pours out so much easier, comfortably, and most importantly, securely. Many cannot express love securely, because of hurts, disappointments, etc.
It would be a good idea for those individuals to start first with self-love.
How does one obtain self-love? How can you begin to actively express love to yourself if you simply don’t have it?
While psychologists, therapists, and other experts may have a host of therapeutic suggestions that may be worthy of exploring, I will simplify things by cutting to the chase, and go to the source of all love…God himself. The Bible teaches us that God is love. Wow! You mean the creator of us all is love incarnate? Yep! He sure is.
To achieve this love, we must spend time receiving it from the source of all love, the creator of life itself, God.
Have any of you ever went into prayer to God, and come out feeling unloved? Of course not. There is no way that anyone can leave from communication with the creator of human life without experiencing some level of love touch.
Many of us know that the more we spend time with a person, communicating with them, discussing issues with each other, we produce familiarity and intimacy. The time spent in their presence either causes you to feel worthy and loved by them, or the opposite. Please understand that we experience the same with God. The more time we spend in God’s presence, we experience so much love, and self-worth, that we cannot help but to come out feeling loved and worthy. The problem with most is that we don’t act on it in our everyday lives.
We must see and treat ourselves the way God has shown us that he sees us as. It is the same way as actively treating ourselves the way a loved one treats us.
Being in God’s presence and feeling and seeing his love is one thing. However, when we actively carry out the love for ourselves as God loves us when we emerge from his presence is another thing.
After all, we are commanded by God to love people the same way we love our self. He apparently is expecting us to love ourselves.
Why is it that we want everyone else to say continually, “I love you,” but we won’t tell it to ourselves? We want our loved ones to praise and shower us with words and acts of appreciation but won’t do it to ourselves. I imagine that anyone that spends time in prayer any length of time will eventually hear and feel God’s love and appreciation despite our many faults and failings. Why not give yourself the same love and appreciation that you hear and feel from your creator, despite your many shortcomings? God is trying to tell us that we’re worthy of loving ourselves and actively expressing it, if he can love us and knows everything about us.
Of course, it is very healthy and appropriate to receive love and praise from those around us, but this is far from being enough of the love that we need.
I’m not talking about the canned religious love where you have to hug everyone in your house of worship and say encouraging words to them throughout the service. That is done to loosen everyone up and to speak faith into the atmosphere to jumpstart our mental processes to be able to leave with some level of edification.
We need active self-love.
Tapping into God's love fuels our ability to love ourselves. Without knowing and experiencing his love, simply praising oneself becomes pride and bigotry because it's a false self-love and requires you to put others down to experience it.
When you see a person that truly loves himself, you'll see them loving others very easily, and serving others with ease and passion. Conversely, when you see a person putting down others and lifting themselves up, these have self-hatred and insecurity as they hide it by putting down others. Tapping into God's love is what will nourish our need to be loved. Love is a basic human need. The problem is finding it because humans search for it everywhere else but where the source is. That source is God because he is love incarnate.
I challenge you to express self-love actively, by verbally affirming and appreciating yourself, thanking yourself and physically nurturing your self-appreciation as you would someone else.
I challenge you to reminisce mentally over the positive things you have done, achieved, and tell yourself how great of a job you have done. Then, continuously thank God for allowing you and helping you to achieve those things. Go deep and think of all of the good things about you. Write them down. Then, continuously thank God for his love and mercy that allows you to be those things.
You may ask, “what does mercy have to do with all of this?”
Good question. By always earnestly acknowledging and giving respect to God for his mercies in your life, you disallow your failures and shortcomings from handicapping your self-worth. You cannot walk in condemnation or low self-esteem, after spending so much time in God’s presence basking in his forgiveness, and feeling his love.
It is the same thing as if you had made a grave error at work, that, by most accounts, is worthy of firing. You go to your boss for forgiveness. Your boss happily forgives you, encourages and praises you, tells you that you’re awesome, and how much he/she supports you. Well, when you leave out of your boss’ office, you are beaming with both confidence and humility, along with a new vigor for conquering your tasks with a vengeance.
If any of the other fellow employees try to condemn you for your error, it will be utterly useless. It will have no effect on you at all. It is because you had a personal encounter with the boss, who forgave you, and you personally know that your boss fully backs you.It might have been different if someone else told you your boss forgave you. Your confidence wouldn’t be that strong. You would have lingering doubts. However, because you spoke to the boss yourself, no one can challenge your personal experience and dialogue with the boss.
It is the same way with God. It is not enough for a Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, or Imam to tell you these things from a pulpit. Your personal encounter with the boss is priceless in these situations.
Go for yourself. Do it often.
In doing these things periodically, you will wrap yourself in a blanket of love, worth, and humility that will help fuel your contributions to yourself and mankind.
Personally, I have found over the years that even through the many hurts and disappointments, love losses, I am still flowing very freely with love.
It is because of the high level of self-love fueled by the love that I know God has for me, that has filled me with an endless source of love that flows like a river outward.
I believe that this is available to every human being as we actively love ourselves.
Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.-I John 4:8(NIV)