Recently, I have heard several people say this and read it a good bit in some on-line articles. I don’t really watch television much but what tiny bit I do, I have heard this or something very similar on several occasions. It is a little saying that lots of people say but really, it’s an underlying life philosophy. Here it is:
I need to learn to love myself.
Or some variation of this. Learn to love yourself or something along those lines.
I have some problems with this idea. If you are a Christian, you should have some issues with it as well. Let’s talk, first, about our society for a sec. We live in a self-obsessed society. I’m almost 50 years old and I cannot remember a time in my life that this has become so obvious. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a recent phenomenon. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden, giving in to an inflated sense of their own power and dreams of grandeur (“ye shall be as gods”), this has been part of the human condition. People loving them some themselves is obvious and rampant throughout Holy Scripture and world history.
At the root of this notion of self-love is really pure selfishness. I think we can all see from even a cursory browsing of most news outlets or social media..heck, even a walk through a local mall, that self-love is rampant these days.
I want to take a quick second and tell you that there is a difference between thinking you’re a piece of crap and self-loathing and humility. Of course, we are to be humble. But humility is not thinking that you are worthless. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who defined humility as not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
St. Paul is helpful for us as we consider humility. Philippians 2:3-8 tells us,
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”(emphasis mine)
St. Paul tells us that we are to have a lowliness of mind and that we are to follow the example of our Lord Jesus who humbled Himself and became obedient. St. Paul ties obedience and humility to each other. We’re going to come back to that later. St. Paul further reminds us in Romans 12:3 that a man is to “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly..” We are to examine our hearts and souls and actions and compare it to the standard.
Icontinually hear people say, “I’m a good person.” My response to that is always, “Good according to whom or by what standard?”
And what standard are we to judge ourselves by? Did Christ have anything to say about being good? As a matter of fact, He did. In Luke 18:19, we read this,
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” This was in response to a man asking Jesus a question and calling Him, “good teacher.” So, when we say that we’re a good person, perhaps we need to check our standard. Only One is good, our Lord tells us…and it ain’t you or me.
I think before we dare to call ourselves good, we need to take a really hard and honest look at ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I am a very great sinner. The thoughts that come from my heart and mind are many times so vile that I am shocked. I shouldn’t be but I sometimes am. As Jesus reminds us, we are defiled by what comes from within us (Matthew 15:11, Mark 7:15). Why would we love ourselves when what comes from inside us is so vile and filthy and wretched? The prophet Isaiah tells us,
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Is. 64:6-8)
Love ourselves? Our righteousness is as filthy rags. Our iniquities have taken us away. We are merely the clay; He is the potter. We are entirely in His hands.
Rather than “loving ourselves,” we should rather take a sober assessment of ourselves and the condition of our soul and heart. St. Maximos the Confessor wrote quite a bit about self-love. He said it was rooted in selfishness and pride and was the “mother of all passions.” By the way, passions are a bad thing.
So, how do we have a proper view of ourselves and not fall into “the mother of all passions?” I want to go back to something really quick for that answer. Remember what St. Paul talks about in Philippians and the mind of Christ. What did he tie together?
Humility and obedience.
I think obedience is one of the major keys to a proper opinion of oneself and humility. After all, our Lord Jesus Himself was obedient, as St. Paul reminds us, even to the point of death. Christ Himself said He came not to do His own will but the will of the Father (John 4:34, 5:30 and 6:38). And Christ gave us commands that we are to follow. After all, our life is not our own just to be lived for our enjoyment (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Rather, as the Psalmist reminds us in Ps. 143:10, we are to cry, “Teach me to do Thy will.”
Christ said hard things that don’t sound like we’re supposed to “love ourselves.” He said things like, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” and “He who loves his father or mother, or son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” and “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom.”
None of that sounds like, “love yourself.” That sounds like, “Give yourself away. Recognize who you really are and how dark your heart is without me.”
As Father Seraphim Rose (+1982) said,
“Carry your cross without complaint. Don’t think you are anything special. Don’t justify your sins and weaknesses, but see yourself as you really are.”
Pray for me, brothers and sisters. Pray for yourself and each other.
If you are anything like me, you have been paying attention to what is and has been going on in the world over the last two years. Specifically, I want to talk about what is called “The West.” Basically, the US, Canada and Western Europe is “the West.” I want to specifically talk about America though because, unfortunately, that’s where I live.
We’ve all been watching as our society disintegrates right before our very eyes. The last couple of years has seen societal decay accelerate at an alarmingly rapid pace. The whole “woke” movement and transgender and queer agenda has been force fed to us repeatedly. Riots, commercials, TV shows; nothing is safe. Even our sporting events have been taken over by this nonsense. Disney has openly said they want to promote more queer programming.
Nothing is safe anymore. Even so-called Christians are going woke.
The bombardment on the psyche and soul of the American people is relentless. I experienced this firsthand this last weekend. I went to a conference in a U.S. city that will remain nameless. What I experienced was mind numbing, soul crushing and deeply terrifying.
Here’s a funny thing that happened though. During a panel discussion on the first night of the conference, someone said something that was applause worthy. Rather than applaud, a bunch of people began snapping their fingers. I was utterly confused and was looking around wondering what was happening. I was informed that clapping can be disruptive and aggressive.
Disruptive and aggressive.
That should have been a warning sign of how the weekend would go. There was a whole lot of talk about being “inclusive” and a “safe place.” That’s code for woke, I discovered. You’re only inclusive if you accept as normal the transgender ideology and LGBTQwhatever ideology. In fact, these things were openly discussed as being ideal and totally normal. Pronouns were being thrown around. There were openly trans people and openly gay and openly whatever proudly flaunting their demonic ideologies all over the place. It was disgusting and disturbing and troubling and all I could do was pray. I prayed for those in the room who had lost themselves and whose souls are enslaved to this rot and for my own soul and I prayed fervently for the souls of my children.
Our kids are going to grow up in a society (in the West) that all this nonsense and godlessness will be “normal.” They will grow up being either numb to it or a part of it.
Unless we act. I believe with all my heart that we only have one of two choices left for Christians in the West. We are either going to have to hunker down with like-minded faithful brothers and sisters or flee.
For me to hunker down (as an Orthodox Christian), that means I must be where there is a strong and vibrant Orthodox community. That is hard to find in the U.S. I’m not being disparaging, I’m simply saying that Orthodoxy is not well known or easy to find, especially where I live. For most of us that’s true. That means we’d have to move. And the biggest problem with that is that, even if we move within the U.S., you still have to deal with a rapidly declining morality in society. In fact, I would say at this point that it’s basically already gone.
Which leaves the option of fleeing. Now, I’ve talked to several people about this and many of them have said to me things like, “But we are called to be a witnesses and lights,” and other such things as that. That is true. We are called to be witnesses to the Light in a dark world. But flight is also something Holy Scripture talks about repeatedly. Consider our friend Lot from the OT and the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was told to flee before the wrath of God descended on the city. As he and his family fled, his wife looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt. She was still attached to Sodom and her comfortable life and was punished for it. Let that sink in for a minute.
To say that we are living in a modern Sodom in America is not a stretch by any definition.
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10 that when they are persecuted in one city, flee to another. In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, He told them when they see the abomination of desolation to flee into the mountains. We are witnessing abominations by the droves in our society. In Revelation 18, when the future Babylon is prophesied, God tells His people to “Come out of her, my people.”
Flee, He says.
And the great Apostle St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18,
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
What fellowship do we have, brothers and sisters, with the darkness that pervades our country? What part do we believers have to do with the pagans who dominate our society? Are we not the temple of the living God? We are told not even to touch the unclean thing (pretty much our whole society).
Flee from it. Don’t have anything to do with it. Don’t touch it.
Lest you think it’s just the New Testament, we see the same in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 51, we read,
“ Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence…We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.” (vs. 5, 9)
Flee. Forsake Babylon. Judgement is coming.
The Prophet Isaiah also, when speaking of coming out of bondage (and can you say we’re not in bondage in the U.S.?)
“Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Is. 52:11)
Flee. Get out. Don’t even touch the unclean thing.
I don’t care about me. It’s my children. My children are going to grow up in a society that is utterly godless, a society that embraces its own “truth” and abandons Truth for their own pleasure. I cannot stand by and let this happen. What kind of father am I if I don’t do something to save my children from this coming flood of wickedness and judgement?
I think it’s time to go.
Pray for me and my family. Pray for each other. Pray for Christ’s return. Pray, brothers and sisters.