My family was never big on celebrating the “minor” holidays. Christmas was the one that we went all out for with evergreens, Santas, and lights dripping off of everything. (I loved it!)
But Valentine’s Day happened to be a minor holiday that we low-key celebrated. It usually included an extra large container of chocolate in special V-day packaging and a stuffed animal. The card was signed from both of my parents, but let’s be honest about who actually did the work to put those little gifts together.
Those gifts were little tokens of my parents’s love on a day the western world celebrates love between two people. Because that’s what love is. No, not gifts, but mutual affection, respect, connection and care between two people. Love cannot exist within one person. We can see this in the source of love: God is not a singular entity, but triune. In his perfection He is 3 persons existing in perfect love and unity as 1 God.
Without getting in WAY over my head about trinitarian theology, let’s just focus on the point I want to make here: self-love is not a thing. I cannot love myself. I can love others and receive their love, but love doesn’t exist within one person, it exists between two.
The Problem with Self Love
Self love does not fulfill our need for connection. We can have an admiration and affection for ourselves. We can respect ourselves. But we cannot fulfill our need for connection with just ourselves. And read HERE about what self-care really is and how even that is between and not within.
Self love will still leave you lonely. Loneliness is the killer of the human spirit. It leads to all kinds of mental and even physical problems for humans. Why? Because we were designed for connection. Just like we are designed to need food and water, we are designed to need connection.
Love is our commitment to connecting with and caring for another person.
But I thought self love was a good thing?
I don’t disagree with the concept of receiving the care we need, planning for and prioritizing the nourishment of our own mind, body, and spirit, or viewing ourselves as valuable and worthy. Those are all
good great things. Much like the term “self-care”, my problem with “self love” lies in what the name implies–it is me who fulfills me.
The problem with this is that I can’t make myself a valuable and worthy person. Sure I can strive to accomplish and contribute good things, but if that is where your value lies, then what happens when you are no longer able to accomplish and contribute–are you suddenly an unworthy person?
Our value and worth has to be found in something that is unshakable and immutable. I find my value in the love I receive from my Creator. I believe that God created humans in His image and He loves us. This is what gives me and all of my fellow people worth.
So when I “love” myself by believing in my value (imputed by God), what I am really doing is acting on what I know to be true: I am valuable and loved by God, therefore I should do things that reflect my value. This is everything from speaking well of myself and my body and nourishing my mind, body, and spirit well, to setting routines and boundaries that keep tasks on track and the bad stuff out.
Doing these things is a reflection of my reception of God’s love, not me striving to do better for myself. When I do the things that my mind/body/spirit need, I am receiving God’s love, which is fulfilling because it is an expression of love between two as God gives and I receive. When I forget that God is my beloved and provider, I move through life trying to get things for me whenever, however I can. This is not fulfilling–it is a lonely and anxious way of living. (See the story of Jacob in Genesis.)
You may have grown up in a household where you knew you were loved and you could rest in the care of another. Or maybe you didn’t, and you had to strive to get what you needed because no one was consistently there to care for you. Let us rest in the truth that we are loved just the way we are apart from all of our accomplishments–we are valuable. An independent spirit is good, but don’t let that be valued above our need for connection. Self love will leave you striving and unfulfilled. True love always includes connection and care with another.
Featured image by: Photographed by Makenzie