The importance of loving ourselves if we're going to love others well
If we are to become the type of people who make a difference in the lives of others, it’ll be because we have a healthy view of ourselves. Speaking in the first century, Jesus himself taught the crowds that followed him to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (emphasis mine). Loving, serving, and influencing others is directly connected to how we think about ourselves.
At first glance, this seems counterintuitive. If we want to serve others, shouldn’t we put them first? Isn’t it selfish to focus on ourselves?
Of course, it can be selfish to focus on ourselves—if that is all we focus on. But if we focus on ourselves for the benefit of both ourselves and others, it becomes something wonderfully healthy.
If I don’t invest in myself, what will I have to give to others? If I don’t see value in myself, what value will I be able to add to others? Having a positive impact on the lives of others flows out of ensuring we have something to give. We love ourselves in order to better love others.
There is a virtuous cycle to this loving of others as we love ourselves though that we mustn’t lose sight of. The more we love ourselves, the more we desire to love others. But the more we love others, the more we’ll love ourselves.
We mustn’t wait until we love ourselves perfectly before we start to love others. If we do, we’ll be waiting a long, long time. And choosing to focus on the needs of others has the effect of helping us maintain a healthy perspective on how we see ourselves.
It is so easy to become self-absorbed and self-centred as individuals. And this always leads to us having a distorted picture of ourselves. Serving the needs of others is a fabulous leveller. It keeps us grounded and humble. And the essence of humility is in having neither a inflated nor deflated opinion of ourselves; it is in having an accurate and truthful view of ourselves.
As we seek to be people who try to make the world a better, more human place, let us seek out this delicate balancing act of loving both ourselves and others. Let us love ourselves enough to continually invest in ourselves and to keep becoming all that we can be. And let us not keep what we have to ourselves. Let us always be on the look out for the needs of others around us, serving and loving them will all our hearts.