Updated: Aug 28
The Validity and Benefits of Good Self-Care, Part 1
by Jim Walter, ThM
Is it acceptable to “love oneself”?
Some argue that self-love is selfish. Sure, we all know people who are self-focused, self-absorbed, even narcissistic. They love themselves above all else, and thus are very selfish. They only think of themselves.
The popular J-O-Y acronym stands for Jesus, Others, and You, implying that there is a priority, with you always as the lowest priority! Perhaps that’s a good approach to servanthood, but it could also be a path to exhaustion, self-neglect, or burnout.
Should this formula apply to every situation? Is there a place for healthy, even biblical love of self?
Here are three perspectives from Scripture that can help us answer this question:
#1 - The Lord’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:39) assumes love of self.
It does not forbid love of self, but rather urges that love of others should at least be equivalent to love of self (See also Philippians 2:4—"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” ESV.)
Is it possible that we may struggle with how to genuinely love others in part because we are not clear what it really means to loves ourselves in healthy, non-selfish ways?
#2 - God often encourages us to love ourselves, both directly, and indirectly by declaring how we will be blessed or rewarded through our choices and pursuits.
He wanted the Israelites to deeply understand that He gave them commandments and statutes for their good,” (Deuteronomy 10:13). Obeying these commandments and statutes was very good self-care. It would be good for them (and by extension for us) according to the Hebrew word translated “good,” meaning“beneficial, pleasant, favorable, happy, right.”
#3 - Our love for ourselves is rooted and grounded in His love for us—that we are truly His loved ones!
The Lord declares this to Israel in Deuteronomy 10:14-15, that He affectionately loved them and chose them, because He wanted to: “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”
He declares this same truth to us: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV and many other passages).
Thus, “We love [God, others, and ourselves], because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19).
Perhaps this is why it’s an important “growing up” task in childhood to learn how to take care of ourselves.
To learn how to appropriately live out good self-care and self-responsibility is a pre-requisite to the development of adult maturity (to be able to take care of two or more people at the same time, one of whom is us)—it is the basis for the pursuit of mutual satisfaction.
People who practice good self-care and good self-responsibility are typically not selfish—they are not looking for someone else to take care of them. They don’t have to selfishly take in order to get their needs met.
How relationally draining is the “adult” who can’t or won’t take care of themselves!
So what are some ways that God tells us to practice good self-care and self-love?
Stay tuned for subsequent posts which will offer Scriptural insights for loving ourselves.