I’ve been discussing self-love from a Biblical standpoint this month, and I don’t think I can do the topic justice without talking about Paul’s warning to Timothy against those who love themselves and the issue of pride.
There is a danger in advocating self-love, where what started as accepting God’s truth in our lives and extending grace to ourselves ends with excusing sin and thinking too highly of ourselves. That’s not the point.
For those who’d rather watch it, check out my video:
The problem of Pride
Exalting ourselves, or making ourselves look better than we are is called pride. Pride is a serious problem, and one we all deal with. CS Lewis once said, “Pride is a spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment or even common sense.” Pride was the sin that turned Lucifer from an angel to the opposing force against God. Pride is a really big deal.
Many Bible teachers choose to teach against self-love just to avoid any excuse to justify pride. I get it – only I don’t think pride and self-love are anything more than distant relatives. You can hate yourself and struggle with pride. You can love yourself and be very humble. They are not opposing forces – rather, they actually have very little in common.
Self-love, in the Christian sense, is believing what God says about me is true. That I am loved, I am forgiven, I have been set free, I am a child of God and I am heir to His kingdom. Take these free Biblical affirmations of who God says you are for more truths to speak over yourself! Self-love believes all that the Bible says about me, including the fact that I am a sinner and need God’s grace. Self-love has no room for self-deception and is able to honestly evaluate oneself in light of Scripture.
Pride, on the other hand, requires self-deception to survive. Pride exalts itself, thinks more highly (or lowly) of oneself than warranted and needs to compare or compete. It’s judgemental and dismissive of others. It pushes out love.
Self-love is Biblical, Pride is not
We are called to look after ourselves.
We are warned against becoming our own first priority.
I love this quote by LK Frost: “Taking care of myself doesn’t mean me, first. It means me, too.”
This is the attitude Biblical self-love brings to the table: no self-aggrandizement, no need to brag or boast or elevate ourselves, but a simple peace coming from the fact that we are secure in God’s love for us. When we live out of that reality, we are free to put our focus on others! Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less and both self-hatred and arrogance work against that goal.
Friends, both proud and humble people need to practice self-love, but in a godly way: one that starts with God and ends with good fruit in our lives. Pride sabotages our relationship with God and poisons our fruit. But don’t dismiss true self-love for fear you’ll get a big head. When we are grounded in God’s truth, God is the one who gets the glory, not us, and that’s the beauty of living out any truth that comes from God’s word.
So practice self-love in a way that honours God. Trust His word and that what He says about you is true. And let Him be exalted in the process!