by Rozella Haydée White
I am totally, completely and passionately in love with me. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t just love myself. I am IN LOVE with myself.
This July marks six years since my divorce. It simultaneously feels like it wasn’t that long ago and like it was a lifetime ago. I am not the person who I was when I divorced my ex-husband. I am not the person I was when I was married. And I am definitely not the person I was when I met my ex-husband.
Many people of Christian faith recite the greatest commandment but leave off something – and it’s what I think is the most important part!
Recall, in the Bible, someone asks Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replies with not only the greatest commandment, but the second commandment as well. And we don’t often hear–let alone follow–that second commandment in its entirety.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 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 greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matthew 22:36-39).
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Jesus doesn’t simply say love your neighbor. Jesus says, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If we don’t love ourselves, how can we claim to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
I want to love myself without hesitation, so I can better love others.
It’s been a long journey for me to come to terms with this, to come to terms with the fact that I was trying to live out the greatest commandments without loving myself. How many of us actually do love ourselves?
I recently asked friends if they love themselves. One said, “Well, I don’t hate myself.”
This gave me pause. There’s a big difference between not hating yourself and actually loving yourself. Many of us go through life simply tolerating ourselves, barely being patient with ourselves and beating ourselves up when we don’t live up to internal and external expectations. We don’t take the time to get to know ourselves, often cluttering our time and space with things that distract us from our inner thoughts, feelings and hopes.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to simply tolerate myself, I want to love this woman who is me deeply and passionately. I want to discover the things that make me uniquely me. I want to do things for myself that I enjoy. I want to take care of myself – mind, body, heart and soul – so that I can live my best life. I want to practice forgiveness with myself and lavish grace upon my very being. I want to love myself without hesitation, so I can better love others.
So many of us exist merely to survive. We don’t exist to thrive. We live to get through each day, and truth be told, sometimes it’s hard for us to get through each moment. We convince ourselves that we don’t deserve the same joy or love that others do. We spend our time focused on others, and if we are being honest with ourselves, we do this so we don’t have to focus on the sh*t of our own lives. How many of us really believe what writer Brené Brown said: “[We] are imperfect and [we] are wired for struggle, [yet we] are still worthy of love and belonging.”
Last year my best friend and I decided to switch things up. We’ve spent so much time over the years listing what we wanted in a mate! (Tell me you haven’t done that, too.) Our lists have evolved as we’ve grown up, of course. Anyway, rather than rewriting our lists for the hundredth time, we decided to write lists of how we hoped to be loved – what things someone who truly loved us would express and embody that love. And then we took it a step further.
We challenged each other to do these things for ourselves, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for us. The question we asked ourselves was: What would it look like to love myself the way I want to be loved by another? My answers included the following:
• Be emotionally supportive
• Be intellectually stimulating
• Be passionate
• Be affirming and be my biggest cheerleader
• Be physically connected
• Be truthful
• Be joyful
• Be spiritually supportive
• Engage in meaningful quality time
• Go on adventures
For so many years, I have made loving myself someone else’s job, instead of taking on this holy task myself. Now, however, I have entered a chapter of my life where this work is my singular focus. In every moment, I am committed to the practice of loving myself.
Some days are better than others. Some moments I have to remind myself that I am worthy of deep, abiding love. But here’s what I’ve learned: the more love I lavish on myself, the more love I have to share with others.
I think this is what Jesus intended when he said to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus knew that love multiplies. It does not diminish. It always finds a way and the more we nurture it, the more we have to give.
1. Why is falling in love with ourselves so difficult?
2. How might God be calling you to love yourself more fully?
3. What does it look like for you to love yourself as you would want another to love you?
4. Where in your life have you seen love multiply?
Creator God, you have created us out of love and designed us for love – love of ourselves, of others and of you. Help us to love the divine creation within each of us – to honor it, care for it and love it unapologetically. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
Rozella Haydée White is a spiritual life and leadership coach, consultant and creator, restoring hearts to wholeness while helping people live their most meaningful life. She is the owner of RHW Consulting and is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. Connect with her at www.rozellahwhite.com.
Thank you for your wonderful article. I help with a weekend Women’s Retreat, 8 year’s, 20-30 women, half are “returners”,
Mix of Lutheran and Catholic, Friday dinner to Sunday afternoon, ending in worship, on many acres of woods. My questions: 1. Would this be a topic that could be used in a retreat? 2. Do you have more material. And 3. Should I assume everyone in group could work on this for a healthier/more enriched life?
I love me and love people-what would be my focus for weekend? Thank you for reading this. Ger
“And the greatest of these is Love”…
For me, I have but one ground for loving myself and that is that God first loved me. There truly is no good thing, there is nothing righteous in me. Apart from God’s love and forgiveness, I have no foundation for loving me. Only when I am fully apprised and believe and accept God’s perfect and unconditional love for me, do I find any reason to love me. When I come to know His faithfulness and goodness in my life through His word and my heart yielded to HIm, then I am so certain of being loved that I literally overflow with love toward others. I then can begin to see them through His eyes through the stirring up of His holy spirit within me! Jesus reminds me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If I find myself striving and struggling daily, then I am trying to carry a burden that He came to carry for me. I need to shift it to Him and his inexpressible and all-consuming love for me. In that, I find I can walk through the valley of the shadow of death (losing a beloved spouse) and other losses in JOY.
Your article on loving yourself was inspiring. I would say I was always surviving and it gave me pause.
I am pleased to read that someone is promoting both the second and third commandments:
1. Love God
2. Love yourself
3. Love your neighbor as yourself!
I needed this! Thank you
Very well written article. It hit home so much Thank-you.
Thank you so much for this, Rozella! This is so beautiful and important! I – too – am not the same person I was when I met, dated, and was married to my ex-husband. And I did not love myself the way I deserve to be loved during that marriage. (Much of this had to do with not having the freedom to do so. But that’s another story for another time.)
So often in the Church we place expectations on people that they need to do whatever they can to save and stay in a marriage, even when doing so means a person is losing him/her/themself. So it took some time when I was in seminary to come to terms with the fact that I WAS worthy of better and to realize that leaving that unhealthy marriage was actually of form of loving myself.
Since then, I – like you – have been intentional about loving and caring for me: taking time for renewal, doing things I enjoy doing, and going on dates with me. This has not been easy as an enneagram 2 who is in ministry. So often those of us in caregiving and advocacy fields feel guilty for taking time to love ourselves. Yet, each and every one of us is a beloved child of God who deserves to be loved wholly! And as you stated: “the more love I lavish on myself, the more love I have to share with others.”
Thank you for this important reminder!