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.
Maybe you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years or maybe, like me, you just turned off all the noise but there’s been a few things going on in the world. This is especially true here in the West (think America mostly and western Europe). All the riots, woke-ism, the LGBTQ whatever agenda, pronouns…it’s kind of dizzying. I mean, even in this rinky dink little town where we live in the middle of nowhere, it’s here. When you couple that together with the broad apostacy in both society and the Church, it can be discouraging.
Know what I spend a lot of time thinking about?
I wonder what the world is going to look like when my kids grow up. When they’re my age, how bad is it going to be?! I mean, if we spend any time at all paying attention, we have to admit that things are not getting better, they’re getting much worse. Acting like “it won’t happen here” or thinking we can just keep our heads down and “do our best” is not realistic, helpful, wise, nor biblical.
Deuteronomy 6:6-8, God tells the people of Israel (and us by the way),
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”
And again, Deuteronomy 11:18-19,
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
So, let me ask all of us a few questions: What do we talk to our kids about? What sorts of conversations are we having with our children? Are we depending on the school system to teach them what they need to know? Umm, if you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the American education system, you should be afraid. Sure, they are being taught math and such, but they are also being indoctrinated by the new agenda. You may say, “Not here that’s not happening.” Yes, it is. Stop being naïve. Pay attention.
My brothers and sisters, we will answer to God for our children. TV is not helpful to them. Modern music is not helpful. Disney is supremely not helpful. The “new world order” is coming for our children and, if we don’t teach them, Satan and the world will.
Look at what God has to say to His people. “Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children.” Are we doing that? Or are we allowing the world to diligently teach our children? God says we are to “talk of them (His commands and how we are to live before Him) when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way…” and so on. Are we doing that with our children? Are we doing that with ourselves?
Here's the thing. This world is passing away. If that’s not obvious by now to us all, we are fools. Our world is utterly corrupt and broken and blackened by sin. This will not last forever. But we will.
One day, if we have fallen asleep in the Lord (or not in the Lord) and this world as we know it passes away and our Lord Jesus returns and the earth and heavens are made new, this will all be over. But the new heavens and the new earth and all who have been resurrected (that’s every human by the way) will last forever. Forever.
The spiritual reality of that has to hit us like a ton of bricks. This life is preparation for eternity. How’s that going for you right now? Are you preparing yourself for eternity? Are you preparing your children for eternity? Or are you too worried about being hip or woke or going along to get along or your job or your own comfort or just wanting them to be quiet so you can have some “me” time? P.S. I’m guilty of some of these also.
Husbands and fathers, if we are not stepping up and taking spiritual leadership of our home, we need to get on our faces and repent. We need to stop being weak. Get yourself right before the Lord and raise up your children properly. Pray for and with your family. Teach them how to pray and read Holy Scripture. If you don’t know how, find someone (your priest or pastor) who can teach you and learn. Take control of your home, men; not in a harsh way but as the one who will stand before God one day and answer for your family. This is not a game.
Wives and mothers, if you are not supporting your husband in this or you are in the way of this somehow, you need to repent. Your husband is the head of your household, not you. I know that may hit you wrong or sound harsh but it’s in the Bible and everything. It’s God’s order for the family and He didn’t ask your opinion before He made that. Swallow your pride and submit to your husband. If he is a godless man, then you still have to submit (unless it’s against Holy Scripture or Tradition) but you may have to take a more active role than you want in the spiritual life of your home and pray for your husband like his soul depends on it, because it does.
Brothers and sisters, our souls depend on this. The souls of our children depend on this. It’s time for us to stop sitting idly by while our crumbling and God-less culture indoctrinates our children. It’s time for us to fight with the weapons we have available to us. Turn the TV off, get rid of the tablets. Pray and study Holy Scripture together. Worship together. Show them by your own life how followers of Christ are to live.
Their souls will thank you one day.