I’m not sure if the present generation is all that much different from past generations when it comes to love of self and self-esteem. I have thought for some time that self-love, today, is probably at an all-time low. We have increased suicide rates, mass shootings, bullying, etc. And despite the fact that tolerance has become the buzz word in a politically-correct media blitz to make everyone feel accepted, I sincerely doubt that it is working
A glance back at history shows that intolerance–in the form of racism, sexism, and generally any -ism–has always been more the rule than the exception. But I think that self-love hasn’t really changed all that much. I’m not entirely sure that there has been a decrease in intolerance. Society has just become better at pulling the wool over our own eyes.
I would define self-love a bit differently, I’m sure that most will view my definition a bit extreme, but I’m convinced that it is not only accurate, but tragic. Self-love is not being happy with yourself–the things you have, no regrets, comfortable in your own skin–but rather it is thinly veiled hedonism, the desire to please oneself. Sure, we may be respectable people, Christians in fact. We may reject the “if it feels good do it” mentality. There are things we just won’t do!
But, as Christians, we are called to a higher standard than simply right or wrong. Even a cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will make this crystal clear. There are such things as right and wrong, but motivation is equally important. What is in your heart? The heart is where you find who you really are.
Now, I’m not a legalist–I point my finger only at myself–but I’m quite certain that there are others reading this who will be able to identify with me. While I believe that in some respects we are supposed to love ourselves, I also believe that we’re not supposed to love ourselves primarily. Our purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we do. This applies equally to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as well as the gardeners, coal miners, CEO’s, cable-repair technicians and tax collectors. While we fill different roles in life, and the level of responsibility varies, we all have the same purpose: to glorify Him in all that we do (Colossians 3:23).
Think back to a time when you fell head-over-heels in love? You were on your best behavior. Your desire was to make the object of your affection happy. You rearranged your schedule to be able to spend more time with him or her. And the beautiful thing is that the other person was doing the same for you! Your preference for your love was met by their preference of you. You were both lost in your love for the other. If you married this person, and the two became one, your identities were no longer found merely in yourselves, but also in each other.
Our relationship with God should be marked by the same fervor. Our lives should be wrapped up in a desire to please Him. It’s in this state that we begin to know and understand Him, and then “…we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, ESV). We lay aside who we are, our wants and desires (our self-love), and find our true identity in bringing Him glory. Go on… get lost in Him!
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!