The self-love movement has been everywhere over recent months. Everyone is talking about it. Motivational, self-love quotes are flying all over the place. In many ways, this movement is a positive force, however there are also many elements of this movement that, as Christians, we need to examine. We need to ensure that our view of ourselves and the world around us, remains centred on God’s word, not on a movement in society.
When I searched for self-love quotes on Pinterest and Instagram, there were a number of recurring themes that I wanted to unpack from a biblical point of view.
The “I deserve” mentality
The whole idea of self-love is loving ourselves, but so much of the dialogue around this has become ‘we deserve love’, which in turn gives way to a whole list of things that we have decided that we deserve: friendship, relationships, health, success; we start to believe that we deserve to do anything that we choose.
But, what does the Bible say that we deserve? Romans 3:23 tells us that: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 6:23 also tells us that: “the wages of sin is death”. So, we are all sinners, and the normal punishment for this, the punishment that we deserve, is death. Death without God. That is what we deserve. Everything above that, God gives us through his grace.
Your biggest commitment is to yourself
Another trend I have frequently seen within self-love dialogue, has been the idea that our biggest, or even only, commitment should be to ourselves. We are the only people that matter, and we should put our needs above the needs of anyone else.
But how does this fit in with the very first commandment: “You shall have no other God’s before me”? (Exodus 20:3). We are called to worship God alone, God above everything else. If we begin to place ourselves above God, we are moving from self-love to self-worship. When we look at the way Jesus lived, he certainly did not place his needs, or the needs of his disciples even, above those of the others around him. He fed them, taught them, welcomed them. As it says in Philippians 2: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Never feel guilty
When you begin to believe that the only person you are responsible to is yourself, it is easy to begin to believe that you have no reason to feel guilty. If you deserve to do whatever you want, what could possibly make you feel guilty? So, you begin to think that it is the guilt that is wrong, not your actions.
However, if we want to look at this from a biblical point of view, we read in the gospels that Jesus calls everyone to repentance. He says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:31-32. Jesus does not ask us to stick to our guns when we’ve done something wrong, but to turn away from our wrongdoing, and change our ways. Sometimes, guilt and shame are important for us to recognise the times that we have turned away from God and sinned, in order to then repent.
It’s been a buzz word for a while: authenticity. Being unapologetically you. Being the person, you want to be, or that you were born to be. Saying whatever you think. Doing whatever you want to.
But, as Christians we believe that it is God who has a plan for our lives, who knows exactly who we are and what we are capable of. But he doesn’t tend to reveal to us all of this all in one go. Finding out who God has called us to be is a lifelong journey of relationship with God, of him revealing himself to us and us learning more about who we are in him.
Furthermore, the danger we face when we begin to believe that we need to be unapologetically “us”, is that it means that anything and everything is OK. But the truth is, that it is not OK to be yourself, if being yourself leads you to sin.
Friendship is about unwavering support
In my opinion, one of the most damaging elements of the self-love movement is the distortion of the concept of friendship. The biblical view of friendship is a beautiful relationship, but it is not about unwavering support, a cheerleader in every situation regardless of how you have acted, a “yes-man” agreeing with your every word.
Proverbs 19:20 says: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise”; Colossians 3:12-14 says: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”; Proverbs 27:5-6 says: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Biblical friendship is supporting one another, but it is also teaching one another, rebuking one another, correcting one another, leading each other back to God.
From my own studying of the Bible, I have concluded that there are two crucial ideas presented about self-love.
Firstly, that our identity is not to be found in our appearance, our success, our friendships or relationships. Our identity should be found in Christ alone. We are children of God – that is our identity.
And secondly, we need to steward our bodies and our resources. This includes looking after ourselves and knowing when we need to say no. But we’re not stewarding these resources to make ourselves look better, but to bring glory to God.