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Can We Love Ourselves Too Much? - Dan Denk


Note: Self-love is the philosophy of anti-christ. It prepares people for his reign.

Can We Love Ourselves Too Much? by Dan Denk
(From “His” student magazine of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship – 1982)

I may as well admit it from the start. I do love myself. Most people love themselves, I think – even those who complain and who seem to have low self-esteem.

What troubles me is that I’m told I need to love myself more. I need to improve my self-concept, become self-fulfilled, self-actualized because “a poor self-concept is the source of all our problems and “you must love yourself before you can really love others.”

It’s time to take another look at the psychology of me-ism. Has it been adopted as Christian teaching when perhaps it is pagan? Is it harmonious with the teaching of Scripture about self, its problems and solution?

When doing extensive counseling as a teacher at a Christian college, I talked with Doug one day (as I had many times before).

He was feeling down on himself again, overwhelmed with his own shortcomings. He was socially awkward. He seemed to be in his own world.

On previous occasions I had tried to help him improve his self-concept. It would work for awhile-then he would be in the pits again.

This time it struck me how self-absorbed Doug was. He didn’t need to be more preoccupied with himself. His real problem was that he was too proud and unwilling to accept who he was (defects and all) and, therefore, was lost in self-pity.

“Doug,” I said, “I don’t think your problem is one of self-concept at all. I think you are actually quite proud. The reason you feel inadequate and wretched at times is that you are ... just like the rest of us. Why don’t you just accept who youare and get on with life? Forget yourself for a while and get interested in other people and their concerns.”

The look on Doug’s face changed from surprise to horror to unbelief ... then to a smile. He had never heard advice like that before. He certainly didn’t expect to hear it from me.

But as we continued to talk, his eyes began to light up and a new freedom came over him – freedom from the slavery of self-concern, freedom that comes from taking an honest look at yourself for the first time.

How many people have been counseled down a road of introspection, seeking to feel better about themselves, only to be caught (sometimes for months or years) in a dark web of self-absorbtion?

Adorable Me
Paul Vitz examines this current craze (in Psychology as Religious Cult or Self-Worship Erdmans) and points out how it has permeated our culture, our language, and even our Christian institutions.

We see it in the breakdown of marriages when one partner decides he or she can’t be fulfilled in this relationship and seeks another one that can offer satisfaction. After all, don’t we all have an inalienable right to be fulfilled?

New research reveals that the most common error in people’s self-image is not low self-esteem, but a ‘self-serving bias,’ not the inferiority complex, but the superiority complex.

To support his conclusions, Myers points to studies that indicate most people rate themselves better than average on almost any scale. Can we all be above average?

Most business people see themselves as more ethical than the average business person. Most Americans perceive themselves as more intelligent than their average peer.

“But,” you say, “most people I know (including me) seem to have a low self-image.”

That may appear to be true on the surface because few of us are willing to reveal our self-centered thoughts – even to ourselves. It is more stylish to be modest in our society. But self-abasement is not necessarily the opposite of pride. It is usually just a different form of pride.

If I am preoccupied with how terrible I am and you are preoccupied with how wonderful you are – we are both self-absorbed, whether it be self-pity or arrogance.

For instance, my friend Larry was a victim of self-pity. He was bitter about his limitations as a person. He constantly felt that he deserved more. His unwillingness to accept himself with his faults revealed his inward pride. Often he would make self-degrading comments simply to elicit a compliment from someone else.

Our basic problem may not be poor self-esteem. It is not that we don’t love ourselves enough. Rahter, we are predisposed to selfishness, pride and self-worship. We tend to worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom.1:25). In the last days men will be “lovers of self” rather than lovers of God (2 Tim.3:2-4).

Paul argues that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, “for no man ever hates his own flesh” (Eph.5:28,29). This doesn’t indicate that we have a problem loving ourselves. Scripture calls us away from self to love God and others.

In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis writes: “Pride is spiritual cancer; it eats the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense ... Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Yet it is rare to hear a counselor, even a Christian one, suggest that pride may be the source of someone’s problems.

*It is not surprising today that many would take the Lord’s command “to love your neighbor as yourself” and totally reverse the focus so that it becomes a command to love oneself.

Jesus was simply recognizing a fact of humanity. We do love ourselves very much. That is our natural orientation. The problem is to love our neighbor.

Yet I am told that if I have trouble loving my neighbor, it is probably because I don’t love myself enough. I suspect that the real problem is that I alredy love myself too much.

A Wretch Like Me
Another manner in which Christian doctrine has been influenced by selfism is seen in the argument, “The fact that Christ died for us proves how much value and worth we have.”

Or, as Cecil Osborne put it in The Art of Learning to Love Yourself (Zondervan), ‘There must be something truly wonderful about us if God can love and accept us so readily.”

I understand the shade of truth in this, but I much prefer the saying, “God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because God loves us.”

The beauty of the Christian Gospel is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). God saw us as the arrogant, wretched, undeserving people we were, and He still loved us! Now that is something to feel good about.

The Lord Jesus made it clear that we are to deny ourselves. He has called us to lose our lives for His sake. This kind of teaching is called “worm theology” in some Christian circles because it contradicts the doctrine of self-love. It may be an embarrassment to some people’s psychology, but it is the consistent teaching of Scripture.

I am not advocating a return to the old Puritan preoccupation with the what-a-disgusting-worm-am-I mentality. That is still self-absorbtion. We need to get outside of ourselves, forget about ourselves, and lose our life that we may find it in Christ.

A Poor God-Concept
But what de we do with feelings of inferiority? The solution is not more self-analysis. When God called Moses in Exodus 3 to go to Pharoah and to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses responded very typically with: “Who am I? I couldn’t do anything like that.”

The Lord never answered that question. It was the wrong question. But He did begin to show Moses who was calling him to this task.

We might have expected God to say, “Well, Moses, I see you have some problems with low self-esteem. We had better go to work on improving your self-concept.”

Or He might have given him a pep talk: “Come on, Moses, You can do it. Don’t be so down on yourself!”

Instead, God sought to improve Moses’ God-concept. He simply said, “I will be with you.”

“But who is ‘I’? said Moses.

“I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the great I AM, the God who performs miracles, the Holy One of Israel. I will be with you.” Isn’t that better therapy than trying to build one’s ego strength?

When Moses understood who God was and that God would be with him, his own fears and inadequacies faded into the background.

To See Ourselves as God Sees Us
How should we than view ourselves? The answer: realistically – as God sees us. It is true that we are created in the image of God and are the crown of His creation. But we are fallen creatures and with our tendency to exalt ourselves, we can use a good dose of humility.

Pride is self-deciet, ignorance of the truth about ourselves. We need to view ourselves honestly as God sees us. Let us respond as the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner;” not as the Pharisee, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other people.”

I am not appealing for an attitude of self-contempt. That would still be preoccupation with self. The goal is self-forgetfulness. As C. S. Lewis suggests in Mere Christianity, “If you meet a truly humble man, he won’t be thinking about humility; he won’t be thinking about himself at all.”

* note: It is just like the devil to take a verse that teaches us to love others more and turn it around so that it teaches to love ourselves more, instead of less. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” ■

Unknown said...
January 26, 2011 at 4:09 AM  

wow, I believe most of the Christians today should hear that

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