Today’s post has been a long-time coming, and I’m really excited to share it with you! Nehrlisa (from True Girlhood) and I worked together to write this, and I hope you’re able to glean a lot from it. If you’re at all confused or have any questions, feel free to contact me here. This is a tough topic, so let’s work through it together. 🙂
I (Nehrlisa) remember sitting in my high school English class when two girls began to snicker. As their giggles continued they would sneak glances [in] my direction. They went on like this for about five minutes until one girl was bold enough to yell out “no lips!”
You see, they thought my lips were extremely small so they decided to make a joke about it. I won’t lie, my lips had been a point of insecurity for me for quite some time. It didn’t help that the culture was constantly painting plump, Angelina Jolie-type lips as the poster child for what lips “should” look like. But I didn’t want to be insecure about this. So I turned to the popular message of “self-love.” I mean, it made sense. If I feel insecure, then the only other option is to focus on loving myself, right?
Like me, thousands of Christian girls have turned to the self-love message as the solution for their insecurities and desires. We see it plastered everywhere from the self-love social media hashtags, to the inspirational speeches about self-esteem. Let’s look at some examples (taken from various online sources)…
- “F.L.Y. – First Love Yourself (Others will come next).”
- “Self-love is not selfish; You cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself.”
- “The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.”
- “I am my problem, and also my solution.”
These words may be inspiring or seem harmless, but once we weigh them against Scripture, we realize how dangerous and destructive the self-love message really is. Just look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-39:
“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (ESV).
Jesus’ first desire for us is to love HIM, and the second most important commandment in all of Scripture is that we love our neighbors. Jesus didn’t tell us to love ourselves because He knew that we, by human nature, already love ourselves more than we should. This is why the Bible repeatedly emphasizes the need to lay aside selfish desires and carry our crosses. We tend to our own needs and do what we can to make ourselves happy. And He desires that we do the same for those around us. Matthew 22:39 doesn’t say “Love yourself and then love your neighbor” as many self-love quotes preach. Instead, it says, “Love your neighbor as much as you [already] love yourself.”
Sweet friend, we’re not telling you to hate yourself or be down on yourself. Not at all (we’ll get to that in a second). What we’re saying is to step back and follow the order God laid out for us. Love Him first. Love others. And then you will be able to hold yourself in the proper regard. In the way Christ sees you.
Before you close the tab, bear with us while we explain a little more…
Understanding the self-love message…
From hindsight, it seems like self-love and self-hate are polar opposites. But when we dig deeper, we quickly realize they’re pretty much the same. See, they both come from the same dark place in our hearts that scream for us to focus on self. This is why one bad hair day can take us from completely loving ourselves to completely hating ourselves in a matter seconds. It’s also why we struggle to say “no” to things that we know we shouldn’t have. It’s a message that encourages us to cater to ourselves—To feed our negative emotions and desires rather than focus on God.
There’s a better option…
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, ESV).
When we look into God’s Word we see that we weren’t created to work like ping pong balls bouncing around from self-hate to self-love. The only way to break this cycle is by not focusing on ourselves. When the Bible describes what a Christian should live like, it describes us as dead, empty vessels, living for the glory of God. We’re not meant to live focused on ourselves, but on God and His children.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV).
Romans 13:8 ties this all together:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (ESV).
If you need to, chew on that verse for a few minutes before we dig into the last point.
So what about self-respect?
One thing that is super important to discuss whenever we talk about self-love is the difference between self-love and the basic idea of respecting yourself.
We as Christian girls should respect ourselves, but not for the glory of us. We respect ourselves so that others can see our respected Christ through us. Self-respect looks very different from the self-love message today’s culture promotes. Self-respect isn’t about giving yourself everything you desire nor is it about growing high self-esteem centered around our personal selves.
We respect our bodies as God’s temples (1 Corinthians 6:19) . We respect our hearts and minds by not feeding it the garbage that’s being put out by the media. And we take care of ourselves so we can be healthy and able to do Christ’s work.
Just like Nehrlisa should have appreciated and respected the lips God gave her, and thanked Him for loving her in the midst of insecurity, so we should turn to Him when we feel uncertain about the way He’s created us. We need to turn to His love instead of our own, and make Him our focus instead of ourselves.
Often the idea that comes with “self-love” is that, if you love yourself, others will love you too. Not only is this a selfish mindset, but it’s not really true. Have you ever met someone that’s so full of themselves and thinks they’re God’s greatest gift to mankind? Those kinds of people are way too good at loving themselves, and it’s not only unattractive, but it’s annoying. Those people are harder to love, not easier.
Here’s the thing: Self-love and self-respect are often mixed up. See, when we respect ourselves as human beings created in God’s image, we understand our worth, and the worth of others. We’re able to love others when we cling to His perspective. And, while the goal should never be to make people like us, chances are, when we cultivate that inner confidence of who we are in Christ, and thus love other people, those people will appreciate our presence more and want to be with us.
The best kind of love…
Every time I (Nehrlisa) think about the story of my lips, I think about how crazy it was to think that all I had to do was try and “love myself.” I could go out and buy all the latest lip plumping gadgets, I could have even gone as far as [paying for] cosmetic surgery. All in the name of “self-love.”
Somewhere along the line, we got the message wrong. We believe that if we do all that we can to “love ourselves” we’ll one day be happy. But the truth is that our joy must be rooted in One Person alone. This one person wants us to leave the self-love nonsense behind and focus on Him. He is all that we need. He will give us the perspective we need, and He will satisfy us with His rich love. We don’t need to look inside ourselves for the love He’s already promised to give.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else I all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).
Let’s cling Jesus’ love and not our own. Our love, toward ourselves or anyone else, will fall short, but Christ’s love is the answer to our insecurities. The answer to our skewed perspectives. Follow His plan, and everything will fall into place.
That’s all for now!
Again, please don’t hesitate to contact either of us if you have any questions. More than anything, we want you to be empowered by living according to God’s design and to experience His love in the deepest way possible. ❤
Don’t go just yet! Find out more about Nehrlisa…
Nehrlisa Behrmann, the writer of True Girlhood (blog and Instagram page for young Christian women) is a 22 year old college student from central Florida. She is passionate about biblical womanhood and getting the message of Christ’s beautiful plan out into the world. Follow along as she shares biblical advice and encouragement!
And if you haven’t followed me (Abigail) already, you can check out my socials here 🙂