You are uniquely created and loved.
That can be a hard thing to believe sometimes, but it is the absolute truth. You are uniquely created and loved.
Sometimes it’s easy to love, while other times it’s more difficult, be it ourselves or other people. Since we are the only people who experience all of our own faults, failures, and sins though, we may tend to forget to love ourselves, choosing to let our darkness overcome the light within. But if we want to be true disciples of Christ, if we want to be effective disciples of Christ for that matter, we have to love as He loves, not just loving the people we come across in this lifetime, but loving ourselves too.
I was on a retreat in late February 2017, and while there, a friend of mine told me that Jesus would’ve still chosen to undergo His Passion and die on the cross even if I was the only person that could’ve been saved through His death because He loves me that much. That can be a hard thing to grasp, but these words carry so much power and so much truth with them that I’m still able to remember them over a year later. How can He love each and every one of us like this? Why is it important for us to love ourselves, beyond it just making us feel good? Answers to these questions and more like them can be found in the scriptures.
There are many scriptures pertaining to self-love that can be found throughout both the Old and New Testament, but there are three passages in particular that I want to point out. First, I want to start at the beginning.
Genesis 1: 26-31 recounts the creation of men and women and how God declared that man and woman – out of all of creation – be created in His own image. As if that wasn’t enough of a gift, God gave us His creation immediately after creating us!
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29).
God gave us creation because He saw that we were good and deemed us worthy of it. Not believing in our own inherent goodness can greatly impact our ability to love ourselves, yet if we as Christians believe that God is good and that He created us in His image, than we must hold firm to the truth that we are good. I am good. You are good. We were created out of the goodness of God for the very purpose of doing good things in this life. Sometimes, we fail in this regard. I fail quite frequently, but in those moments I must run back to the Father and remind myself that I am good because God made me so, and He continues to see that goodness within me, even when I can’t see it myself.
St. Paul reminds us of this inherent goodness as well in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 18-20).
There are a couple of things that strike me from this passage. First is the reminder that our bodies are home to the Holy Spirit, which we are gifted with at Baptism and sealed with at Confirmation. God loves us so much that he chooses to live within us, and desires a home in our hearts, and it is only natural for us to glorify Him for this gift of Himself. Second is that the “immoral man sins against his own body.” When we don’t love ourselves and listen to the lie that we “aren’t worthy of it”, we’re essentially rejecting God’s love when He’s already declared us to be worthy of it. God loves us even through our sins, be they against ourselves or others, and He’s ready to forgive us and pour out His love to us when we’re ready to ask Him for it. And we do need to love ourselves and reflect on how God works in our lives if we are going to follow the call God’s set out for each and every one of us.
This call is present in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; John 13:31-35), so if the four Gospel writers each thought it was important enough to include in their respective Gospels, than it must be pretty important. I’m pulling from Mark’s Gospel because I find the wording to be the most powerful: when asked which of the commandments was greatest, Jesus answers
“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
This is a pretty famous scripture verse but I feel like part of the meaning often gets overlooked. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Not “you shall love your neighbor better than yourself,” but “as yourself.” That’s not just a call to love others and to treat them with kindness, but it’s a call to love ourselves too. In order to effectively love others we must learn to love ourselves because God loves us as we are. By remembering and discovering how God loves us each and every day, not only are we able to deepen our love for God, but we are also able develop a love for ourselves which helps us in our mission to love others – which is why Jesus declared this to be the greatest of commandments. So please, take some time out of your day to love yourself, especially if you haven’t done so lately.
God, out of His own goodness, created us in His image and declared us to be good. So good in fact, that He wants to live within us, and then He calls us to love as He does. He calls us to love ourselves as He does, and He calls us to love others as He does, but we often forget to love ourselves, especially in the times we feel we don’t deserve it. But we can’t let our feelings hold us back from the Truth. Our feelings are temporary, but the Truth is eternal. God’s already declared you to be worthy of love: His love, the greatest of loves. He created you out of love and for love.
You are uniquely created and loved. Love yourself.
If this might be a difficult idea for you to grasp, which it can be, I encourage you to take this idea to prayer and to reflect on the ways that God and others have loved you even in those times of darkness, and then just glorify God through your prayers of thanksgiving.