(This is the final blog in our Month of KYLO series! If you’re reading Keep Your Love On with us, this corresponds to Chapters 9 and 10.)
“Love yourself” is one of those pieces of advice we often hear people say or post on social media.
It’s also something most of us struggle to understand or do well.
I think a lot of us associate loving ourselves with “treating” ourselves—splurging on that gourmet dinner, trip to the spa, or those Nikes we’ve been wanting.
And there’s nothing wrong with treating ourselves . . . unless that’s the only way we love ourselves.
If a parent only loves their child by giving them treats, what happens? The child ends up spoiled and the treats lose their fun, because they can’t make up for the other real ways in which the child needs to be loved.
The same is true with loving ourselves. Instinctively we know this, which is probably why a lot of us struggle to feel that “love yourself” is even good advice. It sounds like “be selfish.”
Others of us have a much different association when we hear someone toss out, “You need to love yourself more.” For those of us who have walked through abusive relationships, rejection, or other painful experiences that have crushed our sense of self-worth and locked us a battle with shame and self-hatred, those words sound all but impossible. How do we love ourselves when at our core, we are in bondage to the belief that we aren’t worthy of love?
Here’s the truth: loving ourselves is absolutely biblical, right, necessary, and possible. We just need to understand what it means and how to do it. Here are 3 steps we must all take on the journey of learning to love ourselves well:
Step 1: Understand that The Journey Begins with Receiving
We know loving ourselves is biblical, because Jesus said that loving ourselves is inseparable from loving God and others:
Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-38 TPT)
If this life is a School of Love, then the three main subjects we must master are Loving God, Loving Others, and Loving Ourselves. Growing in love means learning to do them all well. But the most important thing we must understand is where our lessons in love begin.
Loving ourselves—or God and others—does not begin with what we do, but what we allow to be done to us. It begins not with giving, but with receiving.
As John puts it, our love is categorically a response to the One who loves us perfectly, for He is Love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).
Step 2: Win the Battle of Beliefs
This means that any area of our lives where we are struggling to love is ultimately rooted in our struggle to let God love us. And letting God love us is a struggle for all of us.
In theory, we all want God’s love and know in our core that we need it. Yet when it comes to actually receiving His love, we find that He ends up confronting every misbelief, insecurity, or dysfunctional behavior around love we have picked up through our experience in human relationships. So we must choose to give up the old things that feel like “love” to us and let God teach us what love actually is.
God comes to us as a loving Father who delights in us, believes in us, champions us, honors us, challenges us, forgives us, corrects us, and ultimately transforms us more than any other love we’ve ever known. Here are the kind of things we hear Him say to us as we journey on with Him as His sons and daughters:
I believe in you, and I’m so proud of you.
I really like you! You’re my favorite.
Hey, remember who you are! You’re my son/daughter, and what you’re doing right now is not who you really are.
I am with you and I am for you. Remember that nothing is impossible with Me, so lean into this challenge and ask Me for what you need.
I want the absolute best for you—prosperity, abundance, joy, health, thriving, peace, and honor.
When we first hear these messages, most of us struggle to believe them. They feel too good to be true. We’re more familiar with the voice of the accuser, the voice of shame, that tells us we don’t deserve to be loved like this. We’re used to hearing other messages, which often have a religious undertone and feel “righteous” to us:
You can’t really be trusted to do what’s right or produce excellence in your life. Don’t set your standards too high or expect too much of yourself.
God loves you because He love everybody, but He doesn’t really like you.
Oh, you messed up again? Well, that’s who you are—a mess-up. You’re never going to get free of that issue/sin/bondage.
If you were more put together/righteous/full of faith, God would hear your prayers in this situation.
You don’t deserve the best. Take what you can get, but good luck trying to gain a sense of worthiness. Only the super-spiritual, specially-favored-by-God people have that.
Winning this spiritual battle over our beliefs is the first and most critical key to loving ourselves. Will we repent from the lies of the accuser and align our beliefs with God? Only by agreeing with what He says about who we are, what we deserve, and how we ought to be loved will we learn to truly love ourselves.
Step 3: Practicing Genuine Self-Love
Changing our beliefs must lead us to change our behavior—otherwise those beliefs won’t become cellular to who we are. So what kind of behavior demonstrates that we have truly received the love of our Father and come to believe in what He says about our identity, worthiness, and how we ought to be loved?
Arguably, any way in which we live out the truth of who God says we are is an act of self-love. But here are 3 key practices that we should all establish in our lives:
The pursuit of self-knowledge.
In Keep Your Love On, I state:
If you truly want to be loving and unselfish, you will take the time and effort to get your garden producing the best fruit possible so you can offer something valuable to others. You will invest in learning all there is to know about the garden God has given you—from your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health to your education, talents, gifts, callings, finances, relationships, and more—and how to make it flourish. (KYLO, 139)
Every effort we invest in coming to know the unique individual our Father created us to be pays dividends for ourselves and those around us. We love ourselves by putting time and resources into education and personal growth.
The pursuit of your dreams.
There is nothing the Father wants more than to see the dreams and desires He has put into your heart become reality. Pursuing our dreams is not selfish! When realized, every dream that originates in God’s heart for us becomes a gift to the world that expresses His nature and glory. We love ourselves, Him, and others by running after our dreams.
The pursuit of healthy limits.
The subject of limits is pretty broad, because it’s something we need to master in every area of our lives, from our physical health to our careers, leadership, families, relationships, finances, entertainment, community involvement, and more.
I’m not talking about false limits that we, society, or the enemy puts on us, but the real limits that lie around our God-given identities, responsibilities, calling, and every other thing He has given us to steward in life. These limits are good—as David said, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6 NIV).
Honoring every single healthy limit in our lives is an act of self-love. Every time we make the courageous choice to say “yes” to what God has asked of us and “no” to anything that falls outside it, we are loving ourselves in an incredibly powerful way.
I realize there is much more to be said about each of these three practices of self-love, along with many others, but these are a great place to start!
How has God been teaching you about what it means to love yourself well?