I have to be honest, self-love is not a topic that I remember hearing much about growing up. I can’t remember hearing a single homily on self-love, I don’t remember hearing about it in Catholic elementary school, and I know for a fact that I didn’t hear much about it in the seminary.
For some reason we struggle with the idea that God invites us to love ourselves. Maybe it’s because we mistake self-love for selfishness; but, when we do that we’re really being falsely humble. Humility is not about beating ourselves up; it’s about accepting and loving ourselves as God accepts and loves us, warts and all.
It’s important to state what self-love is not. It’s not narcissism or self-glorification or egoism. Self-love is being deeply aware of our dignity as children of God and treating ourselves accordingly; loving and accepting ourselves as God loves and accepts us.
The truth is, some of us don’t like ourselves very much. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to another person; we believe things about ourselves that we would never believe about another person; and sometimes we treat ourselves in destructive ways, ways that we would never treat another person.
I, too, have struggled with self-love. I’ve never claimed to have all my stuff together. As a priest, however, I have to prayerfully reflect upon whether or not I believe what I invite others to believe. Oftentimes, especially when hearing confessions, I’ll say things such as:
“You’re a beloved child of God.”
“You are precious to the Lord.”
“You are beautiful in God’s eyes.”
“The Lord loves you and accepts you.”
It’s easy for me to say these things to others, but it’s not so easy for me to say them to myself and to believe them for myself. In fact, sometimes I feel a bit awkward when I say:
“I am a beloved child of God.”
“I am precious to the Lord.”
“I am beautiful in God’s eyes.”
“The Lord loves me and accepts me.”
But it’s the truth, and it’s important for me to believe it. I am beloved, precious, and beautiful; and so are you! God does love and accept me; and He loves and accepts you!
Yes, self-love is Christian, for if we want to know how beloved, precious, and beautiful we are, we need only to look at the cross. When we look at a crucifix, our temptation might be to feel guilty for our sins rather than to focus on how much Jesus loves us. But each of us is worth that much.
Today, be grateful to the Lord that you are his beloved child. In your prayer, speak to the Lord from you heart as you pray: “Thank you that I am your beloved child. Thank you that I am precious to you. Thank you that I am beautiful. Thank you for loving and accepting me.”
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