Throughout my life I have tried to live into the biblical text to, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) The Old and New Testaments indicate the importance of the loving God first then love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I have read this text so many times that it has become an automatic response when I see injustice and/or prejudices. Until now, I haven’t really stopped to think about what God is actually requiring us to do.
Identifying how we should love ourselves more may require some self-reflection. Do we have a skewed idea of the word “self?” It seems to be easier to praise others for their gifts and strengths than to give ourselves praise in the same way. According to C. G. Jung, we tend to understand “self “ in terms of “all about me” but he states, “Self is an unfortunate name, though because it tends to mislead people. Self doesn’t refer to our narrow identity or our ego (as in myself) but to the Center, the image of God within us.” Maybe if we truly believed that we are created in God’s image we would have a more positive feeling about who we are and that we are worth being loved. We love God right?
Sometimes the image we have of ourselves is based on our family experience. For example, I was raised in a Christian home and was expected to be humble and not be boastful about my accomplishments. My mom often quoted a shortened version of Proverbs 18:16, by saying these words, “Pride goeth before the fall.” As I grew older the rebel in me liked to tease her about how “good looking” I was or how “smart” I was. She would always hide a smile and shake her finger at me and say “Denise! You can’t say things like that.” In my teen years, based on what I understood about humility or pride; I developed an unhealthy attitude towards how I looked. In my junior year of high school, as I was riding snowmobile, I drove through a barbed wire fence and cut up my face, which required 17 stitches. I thought this accident happened because it was God’s way of reminding me that I was too proud of the way I looked. My perception of “self” was skewed by my parent’s interpretation of the biblical texts. Their goal was not to harm me but to raise me to have a humble heart, which for them meant not “bragging” about my looks or my intelligence.
Often times, when we are confident in our gifts, we are seen as being arrogant. According to Jung, I am a refection of God’s image. The author of When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd agrees with Jung in kind as she states, “God didn’t prioritize the parts of me. God created my emotions, my instincts, my senses, and my body as well as my spirit and my mind- and pronounced them all “good.”’ We are loved from the inside out. Not only are we created in God’s image but in Matt. 5:16 we are told to “let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The love or light that God shares with me flows through me so that I can share God’s love with others.
With a humble heart, I can be confident in God’s handiwork by recognizing that my brain, my spirit, my physical appearance are all a part of who I am. Lovable. Following the command to love my neighbor as much as I love myself will always be a work in progress but each day I can rest in the knowledge that I am God’s work of art and that he loves me completely. By and through that love, I can love others as much as I love myself. How wonderful is God’s love for us. So let me ask you, do you love yourself as much as you love others?
 Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits , quotes, C. G Jung, Man and His Symbols (New York: Dell 1964), 4, 51.
 Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1990) 70.