Love yourself. Yes, Jesus wants you to love yourself. He said so. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). But this sounds so selfish. When a person hears, “Love yourself,” all sorts of things come to mind. “Put yourself first,” which is egotistical, prideful, self-centered, and individualistic. “Give yourself what you want,” which is selfish, greedy, and materialistic. “The world revolves around you and what makes you happy,” which is narcissistic. “Enjoy the pleasures of life; if it feels good, do it,” which is hedonistic, self-indulgent, and decadent. Certainly, this is not what Jesus means when he says, “Love yourself.”
I had a spiritual director who has a saying, “Good ministry begins with self-care.” This wise advisor would go on to say, “You are no good to anyone else if you are a wreck yourself. You are unable to be of service if you are mentally or spiritually imbalanced, sick or dead. You have to be well if you hope to love your neighbor.”
“Love One Another.”
Immaculate Heart Catholic Church. Cross Lake, MN.
When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he means, “Take care of yourself. Be a good steward of the gift of your life. Be healthy, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically, so you are able to love and serve your neighbor appropriately.”
When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to take care of our body and physical health. You “love yourself” when you get to bed on time and get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, practice good hygiene, avoid dangerous activities, follow safety precautions, drive carefully, go to the doctor when sick, and comply with the doctor’s orders.
When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to take care of our emotional well-being. You “love yourself” when you nurture good relationships with family members; be a friend to others and allow others to be a friend to you; have a network of mutually beneficial friendships; have someone with whom you can share your hopes and fears, ups and downs; have one or more hobbies; enjoy the arts, go to movies, plays, concerts, or a museum; take time to read a good book, magazine, or newspaper; engage in enjoyable activities like a picnic, swimming, amusement park, the zoo, or a sporting event; have a reasonable workload; manage stress; reserve time for rest and relaxation; be positive and optimistic; pay special attention to hurts, deal with resentments, and forgive; restrain anger; and, if things are unmanageable on our own, to seek the help of others, either from a trustworthy family member or friend, or professional care from a minister or personal coach, counselor or therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.
When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to grow intellectually. You “love yourself” when you have an inquisitive mind, pay attention in class, do homework, read books and informational literature, go on field trips, watch educational programming, attend workshops, take enrichment courses, interact with knowledgeable people, explore and investigate, and travel at home and abroad.
When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to have a strong and vibrant spiritual life. Good spiritual health begins with prayer. You “love yourself” when you pray every day, go to Mass every weekend, receive the sacraments regularly, do spiritual reading, practice a devotion like Eucharistic Adoration or the rosary, and do penance: prayer, fasting and self-denial, almsgiving, and works of charity. Other key elements of good spiritual health include being a registered and active member of a parish community, generosity with time and money, on-going spiritual development and faith formation, sharing one’s faith with others, and volunteer service to the parish and wider community. There is nothing selfish about loving yourself when you take care of yourself to honor the gift of life that God has given to you, and to have a strong and healthy foundation to serve your neighbor.