Why “Learn to Love Yourself” Is Bad Advice
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | December 28, 2017
Just perusing most websites for millennials, we’re bound to see an article or two about self-love. We’re told to “love ourselves” from a very young age, often couched in terms like self-esteem. If we only love ourselves enough—the narrative goes—we would be more confident, better in relationships and happier in our careers.
But the advice to “learn to love yourself” is not as wise as it seems. For the believer, it’s completely unscriptural. The Bible teaches us that we are naturally self-loving—in that we put ourselves and our own interests first without ever being taught how to do so. Self-focus comes naturally to us, whether in excessive vanity or in self-loathing. In both cases, we are naturally thinking about ourselves.
Jesus offers a different road. This path allows us to appreciate our God-given identities without letting those identities become our all-in-all.
Jesus Never Commanded Us to Love Ourselves
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus—or Father God—command His people to love themselves. Instead, He calls them to first, love the Lord their God with everything they have, and out of that love, honor the people He puts in their path. God does not command us to love ourselves, because we already know HOW to do so. We naturally think about our preferences and inclinations before others’, and must learn how to put others before ourselves.
When we put ourselves down, it isn’t because we need more self-love. It’s because we need to love God more. When we love Christ with all we have, our hearts are changed. We have new eyes to appreciate our bodies and personalities because a loving God created us, and loves us so greatly that we can accept ourselves according to His grace.
Love Is Outward-Focused
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Look at the list in the passage above. Each characteristic of love is outward-focused. Love blesses others by choosing the highest good for that person—a good determined by God Himself. As we know from John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave….” Love always motivates us to sacrifice, commit and honor others. By nature, this is love in action.
So while we may appreciate ourselves as creations of God and learn to look at ourselves through His eyes, we are not called to pursue self-love. We’re called to pursue love for God and others, and through that, come to peace with our identities.
The Best Self Perspective Is Christ-Centered
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Paul says, “It is no longer I who live.” What a statement! In essence, he’s saying, “It is no longer about me—but about Christ in me.” The solution to poor self-esteem is not to think about oneself more. It’s to fix your eyes on Christ! Christ in you is your hope and your future. This is the same hope you give to others when you love them the way God has loved you.
By drawing near to God, who in His very nature encompasses every definition of love, we learn how to best view ourselves. The best self-perspective begins when we look, not in the mirror, but in the face of Jesus.