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Love of Self

“Love is the “weakness” of God. His love can be frustrating, even maddening, when we long for our will to be made dominant. In the face of human suffering, Christ suffers. This is not the answer we desire from our gods. In our culture, love is understood to be a desire, or a passionate mark of brand loyalty. We want to possess the other.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“This definition of love is not how most vehicles of pop culture portray love—what psychologists call “limerence,” a psychological state of deep infatuation that doesn’t last. The form of love I’m describing is something much surer and better. It is something much holier. It is not as much about desiring a person as it is to desire their well-being, their physical, mental, and spiritual growth. Metaphorically, this form of love is not the beautiful, briefly blooming rosebud, but its thorny stem—the flower’s protection and source of all nourishment and life. This love is selfless in that it frees the ego from narcissism and the constant clamoring of me, me, me.” (Richard Paul Evans)

“ ‘Self-love is not natural to man. It is the result of original sin, which is contrary to man’s true nature’…This is a difficult spiritual truth for modern Americans to understand as we are told endlessly to bolster self-esteem. The saints, however, are not using self-love in the same way we in the 21st Century do; they certainly don’t equate it with our sense of self-esteem. After all, Jesus did teach that the second greatest commandment from God is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). There is a good and proper love of self. But there is also, especially in our highly individualistic culture, a self-love that can be opposed to the Gospel. A self-centered and selfish love that turns out not to be love at all for it puts your own concerns ahead of the neighbor or friend and is spoken against in the New Testament and by most saints who could see that this more distorted self-love is actually the opposite of godly love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 for a description of love).” (St. Macarius of Optino, Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“Love is so much more than a powerful emotion or a deep feeling. Love is a way of being or un-being. It is a sweet place of self-forgetfulness where fullness of self is realized. It is an incredibly joyful state and an extremely painful one all at once. It unburdens you with the divine insight and experience of who God is and that no matter what happens, all will be well. Yet it wrenches your heart, the deepest part of who you are, because of the pain and sadness you feel when you love someone who suffers. Yet even this suffering begets a deeper love you wouldn’t trade for anything. Love and lack thereof is the experience of heaven or hell. When you love, you long to draw closer to others because you feel your oneness with them in God. When you don’t love, you wish to create separation between yourself and others and your lack of love causes you to experience any form of love, consciously or unconsciously, with bitterness, anger, apathy, and general negativity. By doing so and rejecting others, you are essentially rejecting God whether you know it or not.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

…the Eucharist heals us of self-love, the source of all the passions, shatters the very backbone of individualism and teaches us to exist in a gathering with others and with all the beings of God’s creation. Thus the Eucharist ceases to be a “religious experience” or a means to individual salvation and becomes a mode of being, a way of life, illuminated by the vision and the expectation of the future, by that which the world will be when it is finally transfigured into the Kingdom of God.” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas)

“Although we live in the most prosperous culture of all time, many of us go from day to day with an aching sense of never enough. At the heart of our never-enough culture is the underlying fear that I am not enough—that being me is not okay…Self-criticism actually increases your body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and too much of it can compromise the part of your brain involved in reasoning, creativity, and problem solving.” (Robin Phillips)

“The “judging” that takes place in our minds is the sound of an “inner critic,” a voice that begins early in childhood and can continue to torment us throughout our lives. It is, of course, rooted in shame, but can be a painful, even nasty voice that is harsh, unfair, and unrelenting. We are human beings. We seek to minimize what is unpleasant and maximize the pleasurable. As such, we develop strategies in our lives to “cope.” Many of the components of what we describe as our personalities are simply the long habits of coping. Sometimes, the strategies (and so, our personalities) become our own worst enemies. The very things that once seemed to lessen pain may now be a source of pain. The force of habit, however, leaves us burdened and miserable.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Many of us don’t have an image of ourselves like the image God has of us. We don’t have a strong sense of loving gentleness toward ourselves. Hence, we get into a performance mentality, a mindset that tightens our brow, flexes our mental muscle, and tries to do too much, not because God is calling us to do so much, but because pride and ego want to perform better. Yes, we can be gentle with ourselves within an ascetical life of integrity.” (Albert S. Rossi)

“Practicing self-compassion promotes physical/emotional health and human connectedness through the understanding that we are more alike than different. In children, promoting self-compassion can be a more powerful tool than promoting self-esteem (which is based on comparison to and competition with others)…self-compassion is an extension of God’s mercy upon His beloved through the sacrament of Holy Confession and our ability to accept His forgiveness. Self-compassion speaks to the fact that we have an all-merciful God who created us out of His love in His image and likeness and continues to love despite our brokenness.” (Dr. Evelyn Bilias Lolis)

“To repent is not to look downwards at my own shortcomings but upwards at God’s love, it is not to look backwards with self-reproach but forward with trustfulness, it is to see not what I have failed to be, but what by the grace of God I can yet become…It is okay to forgive ourselves once we have repented. It is okay to relax. It is okay to enjoy something. It is okay to let others do something for us. It is okay to allow ourselves to be loved. it is okay to come to the conclusion, when appropriate, that we are being too hard on ourselves…It is amazing how much more efficiently someone heals and grows spiritually once they cease having a harsh and merciless disposition towards themselves.” (St. John Climacus, Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“We are often encouraged to reflect on and be mindful of how we relate to and treat others. We also, quite naturally, are very mindful of how others treat us. However, we very often pay little attention to how we relate with ourselves or how we treat ourselves. This aspect of our spiritual lives is almost entirely overlooked. Some of us might have an aversion to being mindful of how we relate with ourselves. Perhaps it conjures up fears of being ego-centric or self-focused. However, as we shall see, making sure we are relating with ourselves as Christ would want us to, has huge ramifications for all areas of our spiritual life.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“We are created to exist as love – love of God, love of the other, love of self. When we withdraw from the love of God and the love of other, then the love of self collapses into a solipsistic loneliness. Sadly, we have frequently structured the modern world to accommodate and promote the lonely self. Our neighborhoods, our cities, our mode of transportation, our world of entertainment and consumption thrive on the lonely self and seek to fill the space between. However, you cannot fill emptiness with emptiness.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“There is a treasure that lies buried beneath our shame: our soul, the nakedness of the true self. We often spend the better part of our lifetime constructing a scaffolding of pretense, delusion, and imagination, largely to create a world of “safety” around the core of the self. That safety represents (for us) the absence of difficult or unbearable pain. This is understandable. The world can be a cruel place. It is best, however, if our armor is honest. A difficulty with the armored life is its tendency not only to protect us from others but to hide us from ourselves. What we hide from ourselves, we hide also from God…Shame is a wound made from the inside, dividing us from both ourselves and others.” (Father Stephen Freeman, Gershen Kaufman)

Humility is seeing ourselves as we are and loving ourselves. It’s not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. Don’t confuse it with modesty, though modesty is a good thing. Humility is more simply putting others and their needs above your own. Humility leads to sincere repentance, which is a continual heart for God, and self-forgiveness. (Sacramental Living)

“We are called to show ourselves the same mercy and love that Christ Himself shows us. It is not spiritually self-indulgent to be merciful towards ourselves, if that mercy is applied and practiced appropriately. We all sin and make mistakes and when we do, we must go through the process of repentance. However, some of us are constantly and forever punishing ourselves and feeling badly about ourselves. We sometimes confuse this with humility. Living in a state of shame is not humility. Many of us relate with ourselves in a very harsh, demanding, and critical way; always feeling bad about everything we do. This is because ultimately, we feel bad about who we are. This is not what God wants. We are children of God and made in the image of God. We must show ourselves the same mercy that Christ would show us and affirm ourselves in the same way Christ affirmed all others.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)


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