This post on Self-love is a follow up to a blog post I did recently on my thoughts about self-help.
The journey from self-love to Jesus-love
My long walk to peace of mind wasn’t about loving myself, but rather, someone loving me. The prevalent message I found in self-help was to find fulfillment and peace through self-love. However, the problem with this thinking was that it only made me more self-obsessed.
When you struggle with anxiety you don’t mean to be self-absorbed, but truth be told, you are. I was obsessed with my fear and myself. Who I believed I was needed to be held up to the light of God’s word and who he already said I was. Finding true peace in my struggles meant allowing His love—the greatest love— to define me
Jesus’s love was the key to changing my thoughts, my responses and thereby changing my life.
When Self-love is the problem
We believe a lie that we can and should be entirely self-sufficient and are found lacking if we are not.
We don’t have to go very far to see this reinforced in the world, shelves are overflowing with self-help books and belief systems based on self-awareness and self-love. In our culture independence is strived for because dependence is equivalent to weakness. We believe that we were meant to do everything on our own and running to anyone, especially an unseen God, seems weak and foolish.
Spending more than 20 years with anxiety and depression and having slogged through countless theories on healing through self-help, I’ve seen a dangerous trend in the Christian church—we are gleaning wisdom from the same field as the culture we live in.
The following is an excerpt from a bestselling “Christian” book:
“You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”
“You should be the very first of your priorities.”
–Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis
In our post-modernist world, self-love is deemed higher than any other love. Like the rest of the world, I was duped into believing that healing and hope came from within me. Everything I read said that in order to know and love others I must first love myself;
But what if your “self” is a sick catastrophe?
What kind of love are you capable of giving someone else when you’re drawing from a polluted cistern? Perhaps it’s not our self that we need to focus on in order to heal and love others. Just maybe…loving God and others will set our feet on solid ground.
The message of self that well-meaning Christians are delivering is a hollow promise when a rock-solid one has already been given. Humanity has been trying and failing desperately to be their own heroes for centuries—why else would a cross have to be carried, hands have to be nailed and blood have to be shed?
Jesus’s love and finding freedom from heroic expectations
True peace is found in the understanding that it’s not all up to me. When I believed the lie that I had to save myself and be my own hero, I lived in a cycle of fear, guilt, and shame. Being heroic left me with the inescapable feeling that I was a complete failure at life. I’d swallow my daily dose of motivational jargon only to plummet into despair once I realized I couldn’t pull it off.
Telling myself positive, loving messages all the time and constantly trying to “fix me” was draining. And positive self-talk—while helpful and good—wasn’t big enough to conquer the greater problem of the enemy that dwelled within.
Please understand, this isn’t a cry for a return to self-abasement. No, that’s a recipe for disaster as well. Self-love, self-hate; either way, you are self-obsessed and self-absorbed and the focus is all wrong. Rather, I have come to think of life with Jesus as a much-needed self-forgetfulness in a self-absorbed world.
I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously and to remember I’m in the hands of someone who knows just what to do with me. This mortal, I have found, was never designed to carry something so weighty as my own salvation or even happiness—I may think I know what will make me happy—but God ultimately knows better.
My freedom, therefore, came when I unplugged my cords from the wrong power source—me.
I could never have been the hero of my own story. And thankfully, I wasn’t meant to be. None of us are.
Girl wash your face? How about instead, we let Jesus wash our feet.
Remember what he told Peter before he went to the cross?
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” John 13:6-8 NIV
I find it more than a little interesting that one of the Holy Spirit’s many names is “the helper.” Self-help can only carry us so far, we need help from someone else. As finite humans we need to be anchored in something—rather, someone—far bigger than ourselves if we are to find true freedom from what weighs us down.
When I turned to Jesus and his love instead of my own, I found peace of mind. My sanity and purpose no longer depended on just me. I was grounded in someone so much bigger and wiser.
When I really leaned into the Helper for help, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t on my own in this fight with fear and anxiety. I wasn’t meant to be the hero after all.
Thank God. Literally…
A limp, a crutch and depending on God
A well-meaning friend once sat across from me at the dinner table and said, “This idea of having someone else run your life seems like a crutch.” Well, call it a crutch if you will because I literally can’t walk without Him and don’t ever want to. Until I came to a position of loving my dependence on God I wrestled and sought peace in all the wrong places, always feeling like I was less than a whole person.
Come to think of it, someone else I’ve read about wrestled and walked with a limp for the rest of his life:
Jacob (or Isreal) didn’t find his way home until after he wrestled with God and was found to be with a limp. He exited his wrestling match blessed but dependent on the One that shifted his weight from standing solidly on two feet to hobbling on one. He was blessed but didn’t walk all that well afterward. I suppose sometimes blessings come with a crutch and weakness can actually be part of a blessing. So hey, looks like I’m in good company.
Jesus’s love, not our own, is the only real solution.
As always, friend, thank you for stopping by,