Self-Awareness (Discovering How To Love Yourself)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
A story from Greek mythology goes like this: Narcissus beheld a face in a shining pool of water and fell in love with what he thought was another person. He was, in fact, seeing his own face in the lake. The legend says that he became so infatuated with himself that he remained there, gazing fixated, until he died.
This story has always fascinated me because in our society, it is considered "healthy" for individuals to increase the love of self. People are told by those with whom they seek counsel that problems in their lives are derived from "not loving themselves enough." I believe the Bible has a very different view on this matter: According to Scripture, the problem is never that one doesn't love himself or herself enough, but they in fact, love themselves too much!
"So husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies [context shows an assumption given as fact, that all men will naturally love themselves]. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." (Ephesians 5:28-29)
I hear so many people say that in order to love, a person has to learn to love themselves first, then they will be able to love someone else. These people then go about pampering themselves and telling themselves that it is important to be even more self-centered and selfish then they were before. I have actually read where a psychologist encouraged his patients to say to their families, "It's MY turn to be selfish." The saying I have heard all my life is, "I need MORE ME time."
In contrast, the Scripture says that self-love is inherent in sinning humans and is one birthplace of sins like selfishness and idolatry (in this frame of reference idolatry is the setting up oneself as an idol to worship). Too much love of self will eventually lead to destruction if not controlled. Even many Christians are duped into holding the view that learning to increase love of self is necessary, despite the clear statement in Scripture that sinful man needs to cater to the self less and to learn to love God first and foremost. It is God who causes that person to be able to love others and learn proper self-awareness.
How serious was Jesus when He taught to put God first before all things? In Luke 14:25-27 Jesus said that being a disciple of Christ would take a singleness of mind and a love for God that would supersede any other love. How great was the contrast between love of God and all other love? He said it would seem as if one hated his mother and father and even himself when compared to a proper love of God. That is quite a statement!
"Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.'" (Luke 14:25-27)
This may seem extreme, but it is a comparative statement. God would never approve of actual hate of a spouse as we know hatred. Consider again the verse of Scripture above, "So husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies." (Eph. 5:28) He would never condone hating children, for the Holy Spirit says in Timothy, "But those who won't care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." (1 Ti. 5:8 NLT) Also, there is this passage, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer." (1 John 3:15 JKV2000) And God put into the ten commandments to honor father and mother, so it is clear Jesus is not advocating hate as it seems but simply making an illustration to help us understand the vast difference when comparing the love we are to show to God with love we give to any other person, place or thing.
So what did Jesus mean when He said that one must love God and hate these others? He meant that when a person loves God first, and in the proper way, it would make all other relationships pale in comparison. Since God is the Creator and source of all love, He knows the fundamentals of how love works when it is Spirit-empowered. In actuality, we will love others more deeply and genuinely when we love God first and foremost in the manner Jesus advocated, When we love God like this, love is focused and concentrated and moves where God knows it is most needed. People to whom we never could show love will receive it, even when they are not lovable, even when they are our enemies.Compare the following passage in Matthew:
"You have heard that it was said [inappropriately taught from Scriptures in the Old Testament and from traditional thinking], 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:43-45)
How will we do this? It is not possible to do this thing without loving God first and ignoring what the self wants. That means no self-commanding "knee-jerk" reactions. This is only possible when we love God with focus and allow Him to love through us.
"Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household. [To accept Christ as Savior will cause division in one's own home. A person becomes a disciple only when they receive wholeheartedly the Savior and trust Him to make right each aspect of his life follow God's will. It will cause division.] He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. [for example, if a father or mother says 'Son do not accept Christ.' and you let them talk you out of receiving the Savior] And he that loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. [for example, if a person uses their son or daughter as an excuse not to receive Christ] And he that does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it [for example, If you say 'I have my own life, I have no room for Christ']." (Matthew 10:34-39)
Is the Bible's meaning becoming clearer? Jesus wants us to deny the self so that He can redeem us and elevate us for His glory. The self is blessed in the serving of God and the bestowing of Christ's love on others, not in the deification of the self or self-glory. The love of Jesus will personally cost us something. Perhaps our own families will disown us. Sometimes there is pain involved but in the end we will know blessing and we will be self-aware. But God promises that anything we lose, He will make right.
"But He said, 'The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.' Then Peter said, 'See, we have left all and followed You.' So He said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.'" (Luke 18:27-29)
It is the love of God that will enable a sense of purpose, fulfillment and a true sense of self. Christians sometimes refer to this as the "J.O.Y. principle"- Jesus first, Others second, Yourself will follow. Yet what is advocated in popular psychology is for people to pamper themselves, cater to every feeling. They are told that if they do not put the self first, they will crash and burn themselves out. They are advised that they will lose themselves in another's needs or that they will develop neuroses and mental illnesses. Those same counselors would say that the J.O.Y. principle is nonsense, even dangerous.
"The heart of man [the mind] is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked ["the heart is a twisted thing"- BBE]; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
J.O.Y. is Jesus (God) First...
"Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, 'Which is the first commandment of all?' Jesus answered him, 'The first of all commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. [Whenever you read of, or recognize God, as Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit- He is One God, one holy presence] And you shall love the LORD your God [the One] with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' [love God first with everything you have in you to love] This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' [This is second in importance, you shall love your neighbor as you naturally love yourself already. But there is the action of loving God that overshadows all and then He will empower you to love others and yourself in the proper way without sin.] There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition [putting oneself first before others] or conceit [elevating oneself in importance above others], but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." (Philippians 2:3)
Yourself comes after...
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life [seeking self interests first], what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For all these things the Gentiles seek [in this reference Gentiles refers to any who do not follow or believe in Christ] For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:25-33)
This "worrying" is having legitimate concerns about yourself. Jesus said to have faith and trust God to supply your needs instead of leaning on your own cunning to supply your needs. The reason is that the flesh will begin to be all you think of and there will be no time for putting God first. You will be first in your mind. Instead, wait on God and love Him first and love others with God's empowerment. God will make provision for you in all life's aspects when you prioritize in this manner.
I know it seems as if some people are motivated by purely unselfish motives, but if you reflect upon humanity in general, fixation upon the self is at the root of the human condition. Moms and dads work tirelessly to provide for their families. Yet there is motivation for the self somewhere in the reasoning to do this. People are not willing to do something strictly for another's benefit without something in it for "me." Consider the most unselfish acts that humans do, and you will find them also clinging to the part of the equation which will be a benefit for themselves. It is the nature of the sinner. So, when a person says that they need "me time" or time "to pamper" themselves, you can be sure that if truth be told, they have had much more "me time" than anyone realizes.
To be very clear here, working to feed ourselves something our flesh craves is not always sin. Motive and heart attitude make all the difference. For example, there are preachers out there who work at preaching like it is a job, not a calling. They work for "filthy lucre" and the attention of men. Is the job they are doing good? Yes, most preachers do good for the most part by their ministries. Can their ministry be blessed? That's another question. God will decide, taking into account what the heart motive is and when and if blessings occur. The point is that everything we do can be stripped down to the fact that there is something in it for us in the end.
Finding pleasure in basic supplies of our need given us by God, is not sin. Finding pleasure in serving others is not sin. We need to eat, and should find joy in eating; but we do not worship or serve food or the act of eating, we serve God. We are created to be sexual. Sex with one's mate should be relished because God has given our spouses to fill our sexual needs, but we do not worship the sex act nor become so engrossed in it that it overshadows the God who gave us such bliss. The blessings come at God's hand and in His time. Self-maintenance, "me time" becomes sin when we selfishly put ourselves in first place before God or before anyone else, when we live in our fleshly lusts and for our fleshly lusts. Instead of God loving our kids through us, we love our kids because it is a point of pride, or that people will say "you are a good parent." Such thinking is sin and corrupts the good thing that a person tries to do.
I know this is not a subject that is covered generally by Biblicists who expound on sin and fleshly lusts in their writing or preaching. This is because it is a hard thing to admit that everything we do for others can be hooked to something we want for ourselves. People like to hear that they are doing good things for right reasons without any selfish motive. But the Bible says that our good deeds alone stink in the nostrils of God like "filthy rags." Without God as leader in our lives, the acts in themselves begin to stink. While we live in these bodies with our sin present, we will carry these deep seated, selfish motives along with that greater good that is accomplished for God. A preacher may work tirelessly to present Jesus to others but in the back of his mind, he knows there are rewards in heaven for such deeds. Is he working for the rewards as well? You bet he is. Is it a selfish want? Let's just say it fits well into a sinning man's makeup for God to promise rewards for hard work. God is not obliged to give us anything. We all deserve hell for the sin we carry but God is merciful and kind and not only saved us, but gives us great reward for self-denial and obedience. He allows us to serve Him while also being motivated by the reward He offers for obedience.
I know that this will sound funny in the ear of some whose attention has been focused on the reward promised to them upon arrival in heaven. But what of the Scripture that says when we finally get the reward we so tirelessly worked for in heaven (in the form of crowns) that we then throw them at the feet of God, who empowered the work accomplished and essentially caused it all in the first place?
"The four and twenty elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever,and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.'" (Revelation 4:10-11)
Notice the example set by the apostle Paul, who wrote the following verse and this next one in Corinthians.
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
"But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [disqualified from his reward that was part of his motivation. The discipline was in denying his flesh its wants and desires in favor of God's leadership in all things, letting God grant the blessings that come.]." (1 Corinthians 9:27)
It didn't take Adam long before he saw the nature of light as it was reflected off of a clear pool of water. Peering intently into the shimmering brilliance, he saw a reflection of himself. What he saw was what the eye beholds, the outward appearance of a human male, a soulless reproduction. As Eve neared the water, Adam saw a duplicate Eve. It was not a real person but merely an image of the real thing. A representation of the original. Light that came from the sun bounced off of the water's surface and entered the eye-gate. Then that information is sent to the brain.
This is the function of a mirror, to show what others see when they look at you. It can only show you the outward physical appearance. It cannot show the nature of the person on the inside. It may give an accurate image to behold visually but then the information travels to the brain where it is interpreted. I'm sure you have seen the illustration where the slender well-proportioned girl is looking at her reflection but what she "sees" is a very fat person in the mirror. When you look at that illustration, you realize that the girl is receiving information through her eye-gate that is accurate about who she is on the outside, but when she sifts the data through her mind she interprets what she sees as flaws and inflates them to ridiculous proportions. This is one example of how we lie to ourselves about who we are- and it happens all the time.
Meditating deeply, on the Word the other day,
God gave me insight, truth that changed my way,
The world is full of sinning souls, who worship just themselves
To a mirror on the wall they bow, or a picture on a shelf,
Reflected in the mirror there, is all the lust of theirs,
That motivates every thought and deed, to cause them not to care,
For anyone or anything, except for that of self
And the thing reflected in that mirror, and the picture on the shelf,
Then my mind did one of those things, in which it starts to dream
To give depth and substance to the thought, it began to play a scene,
I saw my family and my friends, everyone I know
In a room with the door closed tight, in which I had to go,
An aching in my bones I felt, I had to go inside
And stop my friends from sinning there, 'twas a matter of great pride,
I would tell everyone in there, not to bow to self
That it was nothing more than a mirror, and a picture on a shelf,
So I began to reprimand, everyone I saw
"Don't you see what's happening here? Don't you see the flaw?"
I approached the front to see the guy, whose example led astray
I would surely turn him back, and straighten out his way,
The man looked vaguely familiar, but his back was turned to me
His identity was hidden because, his face I couldn't see
He was speaking hideous thoughts, too hideous to hear
In his voice a callousness, and not a hint of fear,
He said, "O great one I love you, you're the most important to me,
What you feel, what you think, even what you see."
He kept speaking words to the mirror, as if it were Almighty God
Great swelling words of undying love, and I heard the crowd applaud,
So I caught his sleeve and spun him around, to put him in his place
But this evil man with self-centered lusts, was wearing my own face,
Then I felt sadness swell, as a tear slid down my cheek
All my great pride was gone, I saw that my flesh is weak,
For my own sake and other's too, I'd have to mend my ways
I'll try real hard to control myself, and love God all my days.
- Robert E. Smith
So, why do we do this? Why do we inflate what we are, change the truth about our identity, our worth, our importance and influence? It is in the nature of the "beast." We are fundamentally flawed and don't wish to be reminded of the fact that our lives do not come up to the standards that God requires to go to heaven. This world is made up of people vying for attention, striving for power, and seeking peace of mind from a world that cannot give it. So we create a pretend world in which we are gods. We set the standards in this pretend world and will not let the true God have His say. When God helps us notice our spiritual state we balk at the truth and coached by other sinners we declare our shortcomings as acceptable human nature.
Before coming to Christ we all did this glossing over of our depravity, calling it something other than sin, labeling it with labels that hide the hideousness of the truth. But God is faithful and continually convicts our hearts with bursts of light and glimpses of the true self in the mirror that is the Bible.
"Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save our souls." (James 1:21; see also John 1:1, 14)
This verse of Scripture is the prelude to the passage which speaks of the Bible serving as a looking glass with which we can see the make-up of our character. When we are shown by God who we are in short bursts of truth provided by the Holy Spirit, the prompting by God is for us to receive Christ (the Word) into our hearts before it is too late and we die with all our sins unforgiven. When a man is shown his true self and turns from his sin to God, he asks Jesus to forgive him and the Holy Spirit implants Himself into the life of that sinner. The moment you pray that sinner's prayer, willing for God to change your life, you are saved and "implanted" into the "body of Christ."
"But be doers of the Word [an evidence of true salvation] and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)
James here is speaking about true repentance. A person can be shown bursts of light in that mirror called the Bible and deceive themselves into thinking that they do not need forgiveness.
"For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer [they have heard the call to be saved and have rejected Christ] , he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of a man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty [for salvation] and continues in it [in that manner of life that he embraced when saved], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (James I:23-25)
So we go back to the original question: How much do you love yourself? How accurate is your self-awareness? When the Holy Spirit of God convicts a person's heart of sin, He knows what He is doing. The person at that moment knows the truth about himself. He knows what kind of person he is because of his sin running rampant in his life. God is truthful and the truth hurts the pride of the sinner. The person can choose to face up to his plight in life and accept the free gift of salvation offered him, or cling to his temporary situation and wait for the inevitable end to send him to a place he will regret choosing.
Essentially, it all boils down to one choice.
You can continue to live your life as you live it and take its consequences for eternity or turn your life over to God and the eternity He offers. It may seem like you are giving up something when you repent and fall into the hands of a loving God but you are not, you only gain. Life seems long here on this earth but it is not. Then comes the consequences experienced for an eternity.
1. You can choose to reject Christ and live a relatively short lifespan (usually less than 80 years) in which you cater to lusts, whims and sins. Even in those very few where life is a mere 100 years (in the best case scenario the last number of years will be frail and sickly because no one dies of good health) death still happens. This is the choice that ends in death and separation from Christ for eternity in hell. This hell was designed to punish Satan and his angels and is a place of torment designed for them. It was not meant to be for you (that's why Jesus came). There will be No happiness there, No joy, No personal fulfillment, No purpose, nothing to work for nor anything to attain - just endless pain with no way out because the only way out is to pay for your sin and you have nothing with which to pay. The only payment offered for your sin was through Christ's blood which you rejected as it was offered to you over and over again in favor of this way of life that you clung to in stubbornness. It ended and now you would wish for a do-over but that chance is gone.
2. You can choose an eternity that starts right now in which you ask Jesus to come into your heart and save you. You can a have a life in which God sees to your needs and in which you enjoy a peace that passes understanding and a joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is a life that will begin to be transformed here on earth and glorified in eternity with Jesus. In heaven there will be fulfillment, playtime, discoveries, purpose, and perpetual happiness. The promise made is "Eye has not seen nor ears heard, neither entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for them that love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
How does one properly love themselves? By choosing not to go to Satan's retirement home. Be good to yourself and choose life. Choose a life that will become more and more evident as God begins to mold you into the image of His Son. Yes, it means that you will not be giving into every whim of your lust but you will have peace of mind rather than a hole in your soul that sin brings. You know of this hole because the hole grows larger the more you pour into it. Fill it with sex, or drugs or anything you can imagine of this world and you will find it coming up short in fulfilling your life. In fact, it will burn your life out. You know this to be true. The "party-ers" are the ones whose life is one experience or high after another but each has a cost on their bodies and their minds. Moses summed it up when he pointed to the same truth, that it all comes down to one choice.
"I call heaven and earth to witness as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see someone insecure or do you see someone that knows who to turn to for security? Do you see someone fearful and afraid of death or do you see someone confident in an almighty God that holds tomorrow in His hands. Whose reflection is it you see, yours or the Jesus that shines through you?
If you have never turned to God to ask forgiveness of your sin and for your salvation, it is not a hard thing to do. But there are a few things of which you should be aware.
First, you must be aware of the plight of all human beings on the planet earth. The Bible says that every person ever born has been saddled with sin. That sin is passed from one generation to the next and can be traced back to the first man, Adam. His rebellious reasoning caused sin in himself and once sin was found in him, there was no way his children could be born without sin. Something pure and sinless cannot come from something corrupt and flawed.
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
You have sin in your life and I have sin in my life because we were born with a sin nature. A part of each of us loves to sin. But sin has its price, that price is death. When mankind was just created and the concept of rebellion was introduced to innocent mankind, mankind made a choice to rebel and to pay the price of life in forfeit. The thing is that God had known that man would do this. He planned to redeem all mankind through Jesus even before the decision was made violate God's law and eat the forbidden fruit.
"And He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" (Genesis 3:11)
"All who dwell on the earth will worship him [a prophecy speaking of the anti-christ] whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb [Jesus] slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8)
God chose the time and came to earth. He visited man for 33 years and then sinful man could bear it no more. They killed Him. They hung Him on a rugged cross made of old splintery wood and He hung there bleeding out for you and me. Why? because it made a way for each sinner to choose to turn his life over to God. Each man can repent of the sins they have committed and come out from the death sentence hanging over him.
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman [gene for blood comes from the male and Jesus had no human father], born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law [God's law that says we are all sinners], that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth [crucified], I will draw all men to Myself.' This He said signifying by what death He would die." (John 12:32-33)
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
If you believe you are a sinner and that you need a Savior, you can call out to Jesus right now and become adopted into the family of God. Pray this:
Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I deserve hell. But I ask You to forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe you came in the fullness of time to earth. I believe that You died and they buried You and that You rose from the dead. I turn from living my life my way and promise to follow You all the rest of my life. I ask this in Your Holy Name, for it is in the Holy Name of Jesus I pray this. Amen.
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