Loving Others When You Don’t Like Yourself
When I look into a mirror, I see a woman who has a sharp tongue oftener than a gentle one, and who is prone to impatience. I see the woman who distractedly listens to her people while trying to read an article or book or Facebook post. The face staring at me has freckles, flaws, and flab. I see a woman who could stand to exercise more and eat less. What I don’t see is a beloved one.
I see a woman who failed at loving someone well. I see a woman who was quick to judge and slow to love. I see a woman struggling to love her neighbor.
I know Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But let me ask this: How can I love my neighbor when I can’t stand myself? Why am I surprised when I struggle to love my neighbor as they are when I cannot accept myself as I am?
Do I try harder? Do I think positive thoughts? Do I re-imagine myself into a new being? Do I come up with a three-point plan to be executed to the best of my ability? Do I beat my breast and condemn myself in the hope that I will produce more love for others?
Sometimes we think we need to work at loving God more so we can love people better. But when we have to ‘work’ at loving God while we hate ourselves? When we despise ourselves? Does this fulfill the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself?
I find this truth: My ability to love is directly related to my ability to know how deeply I am loved.
Loving others cannot be something on a checklist. The harder I try to love others, the harder it seems. But? What if I started believing the immense truth of how much I am loved by God.
1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he first loved us.’
Love is impossible without recognizing this truth. We don’t love God because we are commanded to love God. We love God because he first loved us and because of that first arrow of love to our hearts we are enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body.
My ability to love others is tied directly to my ability to receive the TRUTH of God’s love for me.
You see, when we reject our self, which is what we do when we condemn our self for our failures and imperfections, we’re rejecting the love of God for us. We set ourselves up as judge and jury in our lives and declare us guilty.
If we press further, we see that the judge has set us free through his son. Not to live and do as we please, but only to live and do as he pleases. And that, my friend, is receiving the love he has for you and me and then allowing that love to flow genuinely through us to others.
Sometimes we have to tentatively step out in faith and say–‘God, I love you because you first loved me.
We have to take 1 John 4:19 to heart and believe that any love that flows from us originated first in God for us. It’s in our weakness that we reach through and receive God’s grace of his love for us as it flows over and through us to those around us.
And then, I pray that we hear these words of God sung over us:
‘You belong to me, you’re mine through and through. You belong to me, my Child.’ And that we would know them for ourselves and for others and love the way God intends for us to love.
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