How do you love yourself if you never have?

Jesus taught us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as your love yourself” (Luke 10:27 TEV). Which part of this teaching do you find challenging? One woman was troubled by the “as you love yourself” part. She asked, “How do you love yourself if you never have?”

I assumed by her question that she wanted to feel better about herself, appreciate who she is and values what she can do. It is in this sense that she didn’t love herself.

Our feeling about ourselves can be changed if we are willing to do some work. Here are some things we might do.

Practice the first part of the second commandment—the “love your neighbor” part. When we get caught up in caring for and helping others, we take the focus on ourselves. We find what we do for others makes us feel better about ourselves. Think of what you can do for others. Whose life can you make better? What encouragement can you bring to the discouraged? Go on mission trips, visit nursing homes, teach Sunday school, visit the lonely . . . you get the picture. Put the focus of your attention on others, not on yourself, and the result will be that you will change how you feel about yourself.

Thank God for who you are and for your attributes. Be as specific as you can, and make it a habit of doing this everyday until you notice a change, and then thank God for changing you!

Quote Psalm 139:13-16 frequently throughout the day. Say it out loud as you drive to work or as you are doing dishes. Make it personal. Put your name in the verses when you say “You created every part of me (your name).” Say it before you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning.

Surrender your negative thoughts to God in prayer and then affirm in prayer a picture of your loving yourself. Thoughts led to emotion, not the other way around. Identify what those negative thoughts are (Is it jealousy? Envy? Anger? Disgust?). Give these thoughts to God and then affirm what you want to see. Your affirmation could go something like this: “I see You, Lord, as smiling on me because You are pleased with me. You delight in who I am. You have meaning and purpose for my life. You value my service to You, and You take pleasure in watching over me.” Make this a morning exercise every day until you experience a change in your feelings.

Believe God has a purpose for your life—you with your unique attributes and in your particular situation have something special to offer. Begin to walk, to talk, and to act in acknowledgement of this purpose. You have a unique place to fill on this earth and when you acknowledge this, you will find yourself respecting who you are.

Have a conversation with Jesus by saying out loud both sides of a dialogue. I got this idea from Rosalind Rinker. It’s from her book Communicating Love Through Prayer (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966). I quoted a version of this dialogue in my books He Said What?!: Jesus’ Amazing Words to Women and Prayerfully Yours. It goes something like this.

Brenda: Lord Jesus, are you right here with me?
Jesus: Yes, Brenda, I am here with you.
Brenda: Your love for me never changes, does it?
Jesus: No, my love for you never changes; I always have and I always will love you.
Brenda: But Lord, how can you love me? Most of the time I don’t even like myself. Jesus: I understand how you feel, but your insight about yourself is limited. I, however, love you for yourself. Believe me because I want to help you. You are my precious child.

Through the years, I’ve used this prayer exercise at times when I haven’t loved myself,  and it never failed to help me. In fact, I’ve used all of these suggestions; that’s why I can heartily recommend them to you. I know they work, and if you put your heart and soul into it, they will help you, too. I want you to love yourself because God loves you.

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