Is it OK to love yourself?
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was known for his physical beauty. He was proud, and disdained those who loved him. One day he was attracted to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception.
Most people would see this legend as a cautionary tale against an inordinate amount of self-love. We would associate it with a negative trait of selfishness as opposed to a more positive trait of self-sacrifice. So how do reconcile this with one of the most famous commands of Jesus in which he says we must love our neighbors as ourselves? Wouldn’t it make more sense if Jesus had said love your neighbor more than yourself?
It seems like in our culture we shift between two extremes—an inward looking fixation with ourselves or a kind of self-loathing. Neither of these extremes is healthy and both can lead to a destructive path. I don’t believe that God wants us to hate ourselves to prove that we are not selfish. Rather, I think Jesus is referring to a healthy sense of self-love in terms of realizing that we are God’s children created in God’s image. When we can realize and celebrate this then we become more likely to see it and celebrate in others as well.
How do we practice a healthy sense of self-love? Is it trying to eat right? Is it giving our minds and our bodies rest? Is it challenging ourselves to grow mentally and spiritually? How does this translate into our love for others? Does it mean we also encourage and give space for others to rest and grow?
– Pastor Erik