Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Do You Love Yourself?

A week or so ago, I came home from work, with my briefcase slung over one shoulder - my clothes were rumpled and creased from a long day at work.  My four year old daughter greeted me at the door with a hug (sometimes leave it to Beaver isn't just a TV show).  After she hugged me, Haley looked intently up into my eyes and said, "Daddy....do you love yourself?"  It was sort of one of those deep and jarring moments a parent sometimes has around an awkward question.  I might have been less thrown off by my daughter's question if she had asked, "Daddy...will you tell me where babies come from?"  Something about Haley's question pierced deeply into my soul.  Do I love myself?  Is it ok to love myself?  Can my daughter tell that I don't always love myself?  Is it that obvious?  How did she get so smart?  I tried to recover with a similar and parental retort; "Yes, I think I do Haley.  Do you love yourself?"  And Haley shot back with an instant smile and a "YES...daddy."

But let me put the same piercing question to you today.  Do you love yourself?  If you are like me the question meets you with a strange mix of of self-consciousness and embarrassment.  But why?  We are told by psychologists that unhealthy self love can develop into a kind of self-adoration (or narcissism) [Actually narcissism the way it is classically understood by the DSMIV is not a developed personality trait but an ingrained behavior disorder].  Loving ourselves, as we often think about it seems strange and aberrant.  However, the Bible is clear that loving ourselves is a central part of our ability to love God and to love others.

When Jesus is asked the trick question by the pharisees, "What is the most important law?" [Side note, there were two separate arms of pharisaism/sadducism in the first century.  There were those who felt that the first four commandments were the most important, those relating to God.  And there were those who felt the second set, 5-10 were the most important, those relating to humans.  Jesus does not fall for this trick.]  Jesus response was, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength," and the second is like it, "love your neighbor."  The final piece is the one that relates to the love of ourselves...."love your neighbor AS yourself."  The Greek word for AS here is tough to pin down, but the notion is that we should love our neighbors "IN THE SAME WAY AS" we love ourselves.  And the fact that Jesus suggests we should love God in same way that we should love our neighbor (in like manner), the suggestion is even more stark.  We should love ourselves in the same way that we love God.

And of course, the implication here is just as startling.  If we don't love ourselves in the same way, or with the same amount of "heart, soul, mind and strength" as we love God and we love our neighbor, we are not hitting the mark of perfection that God seeks from us.  Actually, one fundamental form of fallenness for humans is the inability to love ourselves as we love God and we love our neighbor.  Great, I now have another thing to ask forgiveness for, not loving myself as God wants me to love myself.

About an hour later, I found my daughter Haley playing with her stuffed animals in her room.  I came in and I asked, "Haley, can I ask you a question?"  She said, "yes,"  "Do you love yourself?"  Haley said, "Daddy, I already answered that question.  Yes I do."  Quite right!  Multiple answers to the question of whether we love ourselves or not might imply that we are somehow insecure about the answer, and that we need to work on that healthy God given form of self love.  And so, I will just write it down as a beginning point of self-discovery...


There I feel better...

All For Now,

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