Self-love is a very popular topic in today’s world. Christians seemed to be divided over it—is it biblical or is it selfish? Personally, it’s something I’ve wrestled with a lot.
Defining our terms.
Before we get into this, I want to clarify that I’m not using the term “self-love” in quite the same way that you’re used to hearing it.
In the secular world, “self-love” tends to come with pride, and results in putting yourself before others. It is rooted in vanity and loving yourself, often to the point of embracing your faults.
For the Christian, however, “self-love” should come from the knowledge that you were created by God. Your perspective of yourself radically changes when you realize who made you. Our value doesn’t come from anything we’ve done, but from the fact that we were made, loved, and saved by Christ. For the Christian, self-love should be paired with humility.
Self-love and humility.
Self-love is not self-importance. Instead, it’s realizing the God of the universe created you in his image for incredible things.
But humility should come with that realization because we aren’t truly who God originally intended us to be. We are broken, fallen human beings.
“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;’” (Romans 3:10)
We were made to be more than what we are, and we should constantly strive to become more and more like Christ. You can love who God made you while still realizing you are broken. You can love who God made you while still striving to become more like Him every day.
Loving ourselves doesn’t mean justifying our sin, but placing our brokenness at Christ’s feet and trusting in the power of the cross to save and redeem and restore us. Why can you do both things? Because God designed you perfectly, and does not want you to stuck as a slave to sin for all eternity.
What does Self-Love look like for Christians?
I have to admit, my initial thought is that self-love is prideful. And doesn’t the Bible say not to think too highly of yourself?
Yes, it is wrong to think too highly of yourself. Yes, self-love can become prideful and vain. Yes, you have to be careful not to let it turn into that.
But do you know what’s also wrong? Not seeing how beautiful you are. How fearfully and wonderfully made you are. How loved you are.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
There are a lot of sins and struggles in my life. Quite possibly the biggest one? A lack of self-esteem.
How ridiculous is that, when you really think about it? God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made; he says I am made in his image.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Not only did God make us in his image, he placed us above the animals and all the rest of creation. In Matthew 6:26 ,Christ says that God values and loves us more than the birds.
Agreeing With What God Says
When God created the world (Genesis 1-2), he said that everything was “good.” When he created us, he said we were “very good.”
If God, the Creator of the universe, looks at us and says that we are valued, that we are the best of his creation, and that we are worth the death of his only son (John 3:16), then why shouldn’t we be confident in these truths? Self-love, at its core, isn’t about being prideful, vain, or conceited, it’s about being confident in Christ and content where you are.
Love the unique person God has created you to be. Be comfortable with who you are and what you look like. Be content in your stage of life—whatever it may look like—because it is a gift from God. Be bold and passionate about your interests. Be outspoken about your faith. Be confident.
To not love yourself is to say that you are unworthy of love and that you are a mistake. The God of the Universe made you! He doesn’t make mistakes.
Yes, you aren’t perfect. Loving yourself and being confident in yourself doesn’t mean thinking you’re perfect. It means knowing you make mistakes and you still sin, but they don’t define you. Your worth is from a title far greater than any sin: child of the King.
So hold your head up and realize that you are loved. You are not a mistake.
Love yourself, but don’t be in love with yourself.
There is a very large difference between the two things: loving yourself turns you to worship of the Lord. Being in love with yourself turns you to worship of self.
When we don’t love who God made us, we are depriving him of the worship he deserves. Hannah Duggan, author of one of my favorite Bible study books, says, “The God who paints sunsets created you. Don’t you dare call His creation junk.” I love that so much.
I love sunsets and sunrises. Every time I see them, I praise God because of the beauty of his creation, and what that says about him.
Our love for ourselves should do the same: turn us to praise and honor our Creator. He made every single person who has ever and will ever walk this earth, and yet he has taken the time to make each and every one of us unique. If we don’t acknowledge that, we are denying the Lord the praise he deserves.
On the flip side, when we are in love with ourselves, we turn our worship inward, placing ourselves above Christ in our hearts, which is idolatry—a sin (Exodus 20:3). If we want our self-love to draw us closer to the Lord, he has to be our focus in it.
How does self-love affect our lives?
Often we are harshest on others when we lack confidence in ourselves. When we love who God has made us, we can better love those around us because we can rejoice in their achievements without feeling threatened. We can celebrate their uniqueness because we don’t feel like it attacks our own.
Life is full of criticisms and disappointments. We may not get the grade we want, we may not make the sports team, our boyfriend or girlfriend may break up with us, or any other number of things. Or it may be as simple as being proud of something we’ve done because we did it to the best of our ability, but then someone makes a slight criticism—or even says outright that they don’t like it—and suddenly we are no longer happy with what we accomplished.
Our identity is as God’s child, and our worth is in what he says about us, not what the world says. Morgan Harper Nichols says, “Never let your motivation to do well be centered on proving yourself to others. Let your motivation be centered on Christ.”
When our motivation is set on doing our best to glorify Christ, suddenly those things aren’t as big of a deal. We can learn from our criticisms, mistakes, and rejections a little bit easier rather than taking them as a direct attack on our worth.
When we are confident in ourselves, we are happier people. We can listen better because we aren’t fighting to be heard. We can be carefree and have fun without worrying about what people think. We can enjoy life more.
Finally, when we are confident in ourselves we can be real, creating deeper relationships with others. It won’t always be easy to talk about things, but when we are confident it is easier to be real in our friendships, which creates a safe atmosphere for our friends to be real as well. It provides us with opportunities to use our life to relate to others and gives others someone to be open with.
When we learn how to have a Christian view of self-love, we can better both our life and the lives of others.