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What’s the difference between loving yourself and being selfish?

Gilr - Selfie - Self love
© Shift Drive | Shutterstock
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There’s a Christian way to understand self-love, and it begins with understanding who you are to God.

Of all the aspects of love, the one we talk about least is the love we have for ourselves. If we’re honest, we know loving ourselves isn’t always easy. Many people, especially younger people today, loathe themselves. They don’t like the way they look — the faces and the bodies they inherited. They have a poor appreciation of themselves and struggle with receiving love. Some don’t like their character or personality, especially if they’re shy or socially uncomfortable. They see little that is worthy about themselves and are deeply unhappy.

Selfishness and the “detestable me”

It’s a complex issue. On one hand, the Lord says that to become His disciples we have to “deny ourselves,” which implies renouncing ourselves. However, the 2nd Commandment given by God is to “love thy neighbor as yourself.” This implies that we must love ourselves first in order to love others. And that we won’t truly love the others uless we love ourselves. 

We can all agree that selfishness is one of the worst flaws – together with pride, it is the main cause of sin. Selfish people can only think of themselves. They are their own center of interest. They turn any situation to their own advantage and feel hatred for those who stand up to them. But what about people who think so much about others that they destroy their own health and well-being?

Certainly, nothing is more horrible than people who can only talk about themselves and their own lives, but aren’t people who heap abuse on themselves also painful to be around? It’s just another way of talking about yourself. So should we or should we not we love ourselves? Where does selfishness begin? And where does loving ourselves begin?

Loving yourself is loving a person loved by God

This question touches on a major contribution from the revelations of Jesus Christ. He has told us that He watches over us and loves us. “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” it says in Mark 10:21. What else is this passage saying if not that God personally loves every single one of us? Christ loves each of us individually. On the cross, Jesus was not thinking of humanity generically, but he was thinking of each one of us.

Loving yourself in the Lord

So we can see there is a difference between being selfish and loving yourself. Those who love themselves in God are at peace with Him. They don’t compare themselves to others; they humbly accept being who they are. They draw their strength from the certitude that they are loved by God. Even if they’re alone, with no family or friends to love them, they are able to love their neighbor as God loves them. The Lord commands that we love others as we love ourselves because He knows that only people who can rightly see themselves will be able to see others the way God sees them.

If each of us could clearly see this, how much more serene we will be and how much more peaceful our world will be! 

Brother Alain Quilici

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