“Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you’re like me, having grown up in the church, this is a principle you’ve heard your whole life. Also, if you’re like me, this one wasn’t especially difficult to follow. Treating people cordially is not a hard task. However, when thinking about the principle of love your neighbor as yourself I’ve often thought “But I don’t love myself all that much.” So today I propose to you a different principle. One I hope I can shed some light on and touch your hearts with. I propose to you: love yourself as your neighbor.
To start, we have to know who our neighbors are. So, who’s your neighbor? Who have I been given this task of loving myself to the same level I love them? When God said this, He wasn’t saying to love the people in the house across the street, or the ones to the left and right of yours, or even your whole road. He’s saying to love the people you interact with. Well, that narrows it down. We interact with so many people on a regular basis, and we love them all to different degrees. For example: Walmart. I treat the cashier at Walmart with respect and friendliness. On a normal day, it’s not hard to love myself like I love the Walmart cashier. However, I have the best, best friend in the whole world. She’s amazing, and I can’t tell you guys how much I love her. I would do anything for her, I want to make her smile, I want to boost her self-confidence, I want her to not worry about what other people think of her. Those are not things I try to do for myself. Sure, I don’t want to be sad, but I don’t go to great lengths to cheer myself up. Sometimes I tell myself I should be confident, but I don’t put out extreme effort to get myself there. I know that I shouldn’t care about other people’s opinions too much but depending on the person, I still do. My best friend is not someone I can say that I love myself at the same level that I love her. It’s the same with my family. I don’t love myself as much as I love them. Should I?
I could take the time here to list everything I don’t like about myself. But I won’t. I don’t need that, and you guys don’t need that. I bet if I asked though, everyone could. Especially girls. And to take that even further, I’d bet, with the input of a mental health professional, that 80-90 percent of what girls would put down would be about their physical appearance. A lot of mine would be. If asked to make a list of things I like about myself, I would have a much harder time. Chances are you would too. But what if we were asked to list the things God likes about us? What could we come up with then? Until writing this, that wasn’t something I’d thought about. Why not? God’s opinion of me is far more important than anyone else’s. So why have I taken the time to consider what other people like about me, but not what He does?
All those things I could say that I don’t like about myself were given to me by God. Every time I tell myself something negative or when I listen to other people who say negative things about me, I’m telling God “What you gave me isn’t enough. How am I ever supposed to be content with this?” Me, a human, telling the Creator that I’m not happy with what I got. How about that kid who you make lunch for, and then they decide that they don’t want what you’ve given them? They don’t appreciate the time or the effort or the thought you put into it. Sisters, what right do we have to be that whiny child to our Father? None. We have no right. When you go off and fully create a human being from dust (no, carrying a child does not count), then you can complain about the things you don’t like. If you’re trying to make changes to yourself that you don’t see in scripture, I suggest you examine your motives. Why do you want that change to be made?
This is a hard concept, especially for us as girls. We have grown up in a society that has such a warped image of beauty. We’re told to wear things like short shorts, crop tops, and lacy bras. We’re told to be tan with a flat stomach but to have big breasts. We’re supposed to have long legs and perfect white teeth. That is considered beautiful. Or more accurately, that is what’s viewed as sexy, which is obviously what every girl should hope to be. And don’t forget about our weight. These ridiculous and unhealthy standards lead to a lot of insecurity, particularly among females. Instead of focusing on what the world thinks is beautiful, we should be focusing on what God thinks is beautiful. The woman in Proverbs 31 is the perfect example, we’re told in that chapter what God desires in a woman. Out of all of the traits He gives for a godly woman and a good wife, none of them are physical. Coincidence? I think not.
This is all good and well, but how do we focus on what He thinks is beautiful when we’re constantly surrounded by the things I previously mentioned? We’re completely and totally saturated with it. As the church there should be a noticeable difference between us and the world. And while I hope that your brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t encouraging you to dress immodestly, what are they complimenting? To turn that around, even if you aren’t encouraging your sisters to dress immodestly, what do you compliment? Do you tell your friends that you like their hair? Their dress, perhaps? When we only compliment the outward things, like makeup or clothing, we are giving off the same vibes as the world. The ones that say, “Your physical beauty is more important than your character”. This is not true, and it should not be the church. When was the last time you complimented a sister on a personality trait of hers? You guys, if we focus on the exact same things as the world, we’re going to look exactly the same. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a compliment on how she looks. However, we need to have a balance between complimenting appearance and complimenting character.
Think about the people that you love. Do you love them because they’re incredibly attractive? Odds are, you don’t. If you do that’s a whole other issue. But if our love for other people isn’t dependent on that they look like, why should our love for ourselves be? And if what you don’t like about yourself is a matter of character, you need to ask yourself if it’s important. Is it a characteristic of God or one of the world? Take out those of the world. You don’t need them, and they won’t make you desirable in the eyes of the One who matters most. Add in Christ-like traits. Make a list if you need to. Find a specific one and focus on that. Pray about it. Ask for guidance from both God and your sisters. Do whatever works for you. I know the concept of loving yourself isn’t easy, but it’s important. Pray about that too. Most importantly, remember this: if the almighty, omniscient God thinks I’m worth loving, I have no right to tell myself that I’m not.