“Do it because you want to, not because someone else wants you to.” Or in another variation, “Do it because you want to, not because you feel obligated.”
“Love yourself and everything else falls into line,” is another common quip. In fact, “You must love yourself before you can love anyone else.”
And along with this, from Dr. Benjamin Spock, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Really? But someone else said a long, long time ago, “Lean not on your own understanding… for there is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Instead, “seek the will of God in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” This comes, of course, from the Proverbs of the Hebrew Scriptures.
In fact, the Lord Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God ~ heart, mind and soul ~ and my neighbour as myself. Ah, “as myself,” so how can I truly love my neighbour unless I love myself? How often I’ve heard this from pulpits! However, it seems to have led me, time and again, to expending an awful lot of effort on loving myself “properly.”
But the Islamic Hadith of Tirmidhi reminds us, “All men are children of Adam, and Adam was created from soil,” or dirt. And so we are instructed in one of the Mishnahs of Judaism, “Be of an exceedingly humble spirit, for the end of man is the worm.” In other words, I need to maintain a healthy, realistic assessment of myself.
Perhaps the Lord Jesus did not mean, “Love yourself above all, first and foremost, in order to love other people.” Maybe, just maybe, he meant, “Love your neighbour at least as much as you love yourself, if not more.” This, at least, seems to be what he himself did when “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
After all, in his Letter to the Philippians, the Apostle St. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.” After all, according to Isaiah, “this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit…'”
So maybe Max Lucado is right, “It’s not about me; it’s all about him…” and others, too. “All that God created in His world He created only for His glory, as another Jewish Mishnah teaches. “For it is said (by the Prophet Isaiah), ‘All that is called by my name, for my glory I created and fashioned and made it.'”
Well, then, should I put myself first and above all? No, and maybe when I do it is precisely then, and for that reason, that I lose myself ~ that is, value and meaning and purpose. After all, our worth comes from God; we were created in his image, according to his likeness. And we can ultimately be fulfilled only in communion with him and others, in love and humility.
Really, is it even possible for me to have meaning and purpose, much less genuine satisfaction, apart from actively loving others in the humble, sacrificial giving of myself? My connection to and relationship with others actually defines who and what I am. Perhaps this is one important reason ~ albeit only one ~ God said, “It is not good that man should be alone…”
Yes, of course, I should take care of myself as an utterly practical necessity, but not because I have swallowed the poisonous, contemporary philosophy of self-exalting, narcissistic individualism, which actually destroys people from the inside out. After all, as Christ said, “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
No, in fact, I am not number one, nor should I be because it’s not about me; it really is all about him and my “neighbours.” And it’s about loving God and loving others, serving God and serving others, giving my whole self to God and to others … and in so doing, finding myself and value, meaning, purpose, fulfillment and peace.
No, in fact, I am not number one, and that’s just some good, ancient psychology and the truth!