A few months ago, I was sitting in therapy really having a small breakdown. I was crying over the years and years of the emotional trauma of unrequited love. I have loved so many people with all of my heart to only have them come and go without a second glance.
My therapist responds:
“You have loved all these people, but when have you loved yourself?”
This was the second hardest question I ever answered in my life. I’m trying to think back like I loved myself last week or something. What does loving yourself look like? How do you love yourself? What does that even mean? I love myself…don’t I?
I had no clue.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.Matthew 22:36-40
My biggest weakness has been that I often thought that my actions were the sole reason I received certain outcomes in life. As a kid, I thought that if performed well enough, I could earn the attention I desired from my absent parents. As a man, I thought that if I loved someone enough, they would love me back. I found myself buckling under the weight of unexpected outcomes. If I didn’t get the reaction I expected, the problem was me. Right?
Wrong. Some things in life you have absolutely no control over. There will be days when you catch all the green lights and there are days where everyone is red. Each individual person is influenced by millions of moments, reactions, and stories that we couldn’t even begin to understand. “Why was Jane mean to me today at work?” It could have been you or it could have been her dog was up barking all night and she didn’t sleep. Life is mysterious that way.
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjustMatthew 5:45
God is equally as mysterious. In the final chapters of Job, God opens up the heavens and replies to Job just like my grandmother did when I tried to correct her, “If you know so much, why don’t you do it? Oh, you’re six and can’t reach the stove. Well, maybe you should have thought about that first.”
God explains that what is just and righteous to us is lacking in understanding and scope. Yes, God could smite down every person doing wrong but what about other perspectives? One person’s rebel is another person’s freedom fighter. What you believe might be wrong and unfair, might also have a grander purpose. Or, it might just happen because.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
There is a sense futility God was trying to get me to understand. He didn’t want me to be discouraged due to my powerlessness, but to rejoice. Similar to salvation, the only one that can change hearts and save lives is God. Even His love of me is not determined by my actions. It is only the sacrifice of His Son that has given me a new chance at life. I cannot change how people feel or what they do. Only God can create change. God becomes the key to self-love and a new life.
As twisted and devious as I’ve been in my life sometimes, He still found a way to love me. If He loves me no matter how much I don’t deserve it, that means that I can at least try to love myself. He loves me because I exist. I exist because He loves me. I had to give myself permission to be loved.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8
What does that love look like?
It’s being kind to yourself. We often blame ourselves when things fall apart or don’t come out as planned. Don’t do that. There is so much at work that we would never fully understand.
It’s forgiving yourself. Sometimes we accept all types of behavior from others and give the benefit of the doubt to everyone but ourselves. We might not always put our best foot forward. It’s okay. It’s normal. You deserve forgiveness too.
It’s listening to yourself. Your feelings matter just as much as anyone else. Stop ignoring that nagging feeling or pain in your chest. Find out what it means to act accordingly.
It’s taking your time. Don’t rush yourself to be anywhere other than where you are. Trust the process and see it through to completion. Sometimes we go through the same things over and over again because we don’t learn the lesson the first time through.
It’s caring for yourself. Sometimes you have to let yourself rest. Or do something contrary to the demands of society. Sometimes life is too noisy and you have to sit still and be quiet. Sometimes that means watching the rain on a lazy afternoon or eating ice cream under the stars. Light some candles, drink some lemonade, draw a picture, take some time and enjoy the blessings God has in front of us that we don’t pay attention to.
What does Self-love look like to you? How do you give yourself some tender loving care? What feelings have you noticed over time that are linked with a problematic past? Tell me about them in the comments below.
Turn Your Brightness Up!