But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves… – 2 Tim 3:2
I often hear people, even in Christian circles, talk about the need to love oneself more. But this is not a good or biblical idea. I’ll explain why.
First of all, there is no need. Unless you are an extremely spiritual and mature person, it’s likely that there is no one you love more than yourself (except, maybe, your children). I can prove it. If you happened to win the lottery, who would you give the money to? Would you give most of it away? Probably not. You would give most of it, if not all of it, to yourself. Why? Because you love yourself.
“But,” you might say, “I hate myself. I am depressed.” You may be depressed, true, but it’s not because you hate yourself; it’s because you love yourself too much. Think about it. Do you ever sit around sad over your enemies being depressed? No. On the contrary, you might revel in the idea. Why? Because you don’t care if those whom you hate are depressed. If you hated yourself, why would you care about being depressed?
No, you don’t hate yourself. I can prove it: If there were a sure way that you could end your depression, would you pursue it? Of course you would. If there appeared some kind of medicine that 100% cured depression every time with no side effects, would you take it? Of course you would. Why? Because you love yourself and you want to feel better.
You don’t hate yourself. You might hate the way you feel or the circumstances that you are currently in, but you don’t hate yourself. If you could change the way you feel, and your circumstances, you would do so instantly. Why? Because you love yourself.
I say this, not to add insult to injury, but to clear up some very big and destructive misunderstandings. Well meaning people often prescribe the exact opposite advice to those who are suffering depression. That advice includes things like this: “You’ve got to focus on yourself,” and, “You need some ‘you’ time,” and “You need to learn to love yourself,” etc. This is terrible advice that has never helped anyone. It may put a little band-aid on for a little while, but it will never truly help someone who is experiencing depression. It will only make things worse. The more focus you put on yourself, the worse off you will be.
Now this doesn’t mean that would shouldn’t take care of ourselves. That’s not what I’m saying. We should take care of ourselves. But if our motive in doing so is so that we can feel better inside then our motives are self-centered and wrong. There are many better reasons to take care of our minds and bodies.
As a matter of fact, the Bible directly speaks against this kind of thing:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3
Sometimes I will hear people say to one another, “You are always helping others and not taking time for yourself. You need some ‘you’ time.” This is bad advice. First of all, it’s rarely true. For most people, even outward actions that appear to be for others are really for themselves. They may be doing things that help others, yes. But are they really doing it to help others? Or are they doing it to feel better inside? Or are they doing it for recognition? Or are they doing it for pride’s sake, to make themselves feel important or to feel better than someone else?
The truth is, if you are genuinely helping and serving others with pure motives then you are probably not reading this blog, because you are a happy person.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:25
What does the scripture say? It says that if you are doing what the word of God says that you’ll be blessed.
What does the word of God say? To love yourself more? No, but to love others more. To look after your own needs? Yes, but also the needs of others.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4
Some one might say, “But doesn’t the Bible say to love your neighbor as yourself? How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself.” Again, you do love yourself. That’s the point. If any person that ever lived did not love themself then this verse wouldn’t work. Your ‘self-hatred’ is not truly self-hatred. It may be hatred for your circumstances; it may be hatred for the way you look; it may be hatred for the way you act, etc. But the truth is, if you could change any of those things that you hate, you would do so instantly. Why? Because you love yourself. If you truly hated yourself, why would you change anything?
The problem isn’t that we hate ourselves. The problem is that we love ourselves too much.
We think about ourselves too much, we talk about ourselves too much, we spend too much money on ourselves, we spend too much time on ourselves. All this inward looking is depressing! And what is the usual prescription? “Look at yourself even more!” No wonder we have such a problem!
No, my friend, take your eyes off of yourself. Put your eyes upon Jesus. That’s the best advice you could ever get. The more your thoughts can be focused on things above, the more you will experience the blessed life.
In the midst of so much mental illness and in the midst of such an epidemic of suicide, this is a teaching that we must not get wrong. We are driving people to suicide because of our bad advice. So much depression is encouraged because we push people to be more and more inward. Instead of setting them free with the Word of God, we bind them up in the prison of self. “Take care of yourself, look after yourself, love yourself,” etc. No. Seek first the kingdom of God, take care of others, look after the interests of others, love your neighbor. These are the prescriptions of the word of God. When we can learn to do these things, happiness will be a byproduct.
In the last days, Paul pointedly wrote that men would be ‘lovers of themselves.’ This is not a good thing. In other words, what he is saying is that there will be a time in which people will be overly engrossed in themselves. Their minds will be on themselves, their desires will be about themselves, and their actions will be for themselves. This will lead to one of two things: pride or depression. The cure is not to love ourselves more, but the opposite. We should ‘hate our lives in this world,’ according to Jesus. For when we do that it is then that we will ‘keep it for eternal life.’ We are to hate ‘even our own lives’ if we want to be worthy followers of Christ. We need to forsake our ‘way’ and our ‘thoughts’ and return to the Lord.
The world is plunging themselves further and further into darkness. Why should we follow them by prescribing the same advice they do? No. Let’s us take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is then that we can experience ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’