by Rozella Haydée White
I’ve come to believe that the most revolutionary relationship I have–not counting my relationship with God–is my relationship with myself.
I believe that we are called to love ourselves so that we can love our neighbor. I believe that loving God leads to loving self. When we love self, we practice how we are called to love others. Then when we love others, we love the incarnate God. And this cycle continues, leading us deeper into love with the One who is love.
Not only is my relationship with myself the most revolutionary, but it’s also the most important. For some of you, this may be a hard concept to embrace. I believe that our relationship with ourselves comes before any and every relationship that we have with other people–with our spouses, our children, our family, friends and strangers. I use Jesus’ teaching on the Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22:36-39 as precedent.
As I’ve experienced more of life, I’ve also come to recognize that the quality of our relationship with self can reveal a lot about the quality of our relationships with others. There are a couple of ways this can play out. When I am gracious to myself, I can be gracious to others. I’ve also found the opposite to be true – when I am judgmental or impatient with myself, I have the tendency to be the same with others.
Or maybe your love for others outweighs your love for yourself. This looks like you giving your all to another but not taking the time to care for your own needs. You run from place to place, or relationship to relationship, giving without limits until you find yourself dry and exhausted. Maybe resentment starts to creep in when you consider all that you are doing for others, and yet, there is no one doing for you.
What if God has been inviting you not just to rest but to remember that you are first called to love God and love yourself? What if living out the commandments in that order gives you boundless energy to love others in ways that God is asking you to? What if stopping and caring for yourself is the missing link for you to live a full life?
Many of us were taught not to think too highly of ourselves. We were taught to be self-deprecating or we were shown that our place is to be a giver–even to a fault.
I can think of the myriad ways that faith and religion have been used to silence, oppress, and belittle women who think too highly of themselves.
In my journey to healing, restoration, and wholeness, I call foul on these ways of formation. I do not believe that God intends for God’s creation, for the ones God has gifted to be co-creators in various ways, to play it small. If I believe that I am made in the Divine image and that God lives in me (and in others), then I am called to love all of me. Deeply. Passionately. Fiercely.
This is how I understand self-care, not as something we pay money to do or as mere pampering. I understand self-care as recognizing that I am indeed holy and a dwelling place for my God, and this means that I am to care for my whole self – for my mind, my body, my soul and my heart. Self-care means attending to each piece of my being in ways that bring life to the center. If something is life-draining, it has to go. If there isn’t time to give birth to the creativity within, then something has to shift. If someone doesn’t respect my boundaries, then I have to create distance. Self-care is truly a revolutionary act. It is one that unapologetically demonstrates that I am worthy of all the love and joy and fulfillment that God has to offer.
There are two Bible texts that I go to when I think about self-care. The first is Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When we lean into the Greatest Commandment, to love God with our whole self, we understand that this means God is calling us back to center, to the One who sees us and knows us and loves us without condition. When we trust this truth, we are able to cast any and all burdens onto God – and in doing so, we practice the ultimate self-care. We are set free and God renews us. This is an invitation to practice love of self as we practice loving God.
The second Bible text that I think of when it comes to the revolutionary act of loving self is Psalm 139:13-18:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.
This text reminds me that anything that God has created is worthy of love and care. Not to love or care for myself would be an affront to the very God I say that I love, and I am not willing to offend my God. How about you?
1. What does it look like to practice revolutionary self-care?
2. What gets in the way of loving yourself first?
3. How has God loved you and invited you to remember that you are worthy and enough?
God, thank you for the gift of love. Now, help us to love ourselves so that we might better love each other and ultimately, better love you. 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.