Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed.
In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.
But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.
This week’s lie: Self-love is Selfish.
I’ve shared my experiences with parochial school before. At the time, I enjoyed and respected the institution. I earned gold stars for memorizing scripture which jived well with my rote-memory learning style. I am a rule-follower, which was also rewarded in this legalistic environment. Faith, hope, love, modesty, and humility were the cornerstones of my education. As a child of the 1960s, this appeared an idyllic culture.
In hindsight, however, I’ve discovered this harsh, critical environment severely undermined my self-esteem and nearly robbed me of any kind of relationship with the Divine.
The Bible was our textbook. And the fear of the Lord its constant refrain. As a child, however, I equated fear the Lord to be afraid. After all, there was no hiding from Him, and He knew everything I did or thought. In my mind, He was always lurking behind the door, trying to catch me in a compromising position. And He relished writing down each infraction in the Ledger of Life.
Four years ago I decided to rectify this erroneous view. I did not recognize the Good News because I did not find God good. I changed the focus of my Bible study. Instead of focusing on His judgment and wrath, I concentrated on the loving nature of God, on His mercy and grace. Slowly I began to grasp the truth: I am loved by God – unconditionally.
Recently, however, I became aware of another childhood misinterpretation of a key scripture verse:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-39)
While my eyes read, love your neighbor as yourself, my mind interpreted, love your neighbor instead of yourself.
Yes, we are to love others, minister to those in need, extend grace and mercy to our enemies – but we are also to do the same for ourselves.
Even the airlines understand this truth. In case of emergency, they advise parents to secure oxygen masks on themselves first before trying to help their children. They know we cannot properly administer life-saving care if we ourselves are struggling.
If we do not accept and love ourselves as God loves us – if we do not tend to our personal needs – if we do not extend grace and mercy to our shortcomings, we will deplete the well and have nothing left to give to others.
An empty well breeds resentment and the seed of bitterness will take root. This harms our relationship with the Lord and our ministry to others.
The truth: Self-love is necessary to love others.