It was right around the 7th grade when it began - an unrelenting obsession with a singular object: myself. Without warning, the young girl who had never before cared about what she wore, how her hair looked, or what size her jeans were became fiercely aware of such details. The harsh conclusion I came to was this: I wasn’t enough.
Not thin enough, not popular enough, not smart enough, not funny enough. Over the next several years I was plagued by general feelings of “not-enoughness,” and for some time after I chased some illusive version of myself that was, quite simply, more.
In all honesty, I still struggle with many of these same insecurities decades later. Yet I’ve grown increasingly at peace with what I am and what I am not as the Gospel has grounded my perspective. However, a quick scroll through my social media news feed highlights many others have not. Almost any given day reveals post after post of self-love exhortations, often inspired by the latest self-love anthem to hit the best seller’s list.
Whereas the popularity of the self-love movement can be easily understood amongst the secular world, it should lose its momentum the moment it intersects the life of any believer. What should concern us in the church is that overwhelmingly, it has not.
Christian women have bought into the self-love lie hook, line, and sinker despite the fact the Gospel outright refutes it.
The Lie of Self-love
Perhaps the most insidious lie of the self-love movement is this: You are enough. It’s a message that tickles the ear of any once-adolescent woman who, like me, has longed to be more than she was for an entire life-time.
At no point after the fall in Genesis 3 has humankind been touted as “enough” by the Lord. In fact, the scriptures go to great lengths to highlight the reality we are not. As Romans 3:23 reminds us, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Acknowledging this truth is not an unhealthy attempt to tear ourselves down, but a necessary step in recognizing who we are without Christ - insufficient, incomplete, incapable of pleasing God on our own. In order to come to Christ in a meaningful way that surpasses the ruse of religiosity, we must believe we need him. We must understand Christ has something to offer us we cannot provide ourselves.
Once we recognize our need for him, our lack becomes secondary to his abundance. We give up our desire to be enough, fully satisfied with the knowledge that although we are not, he is.
How the Gospel refutes the lie of self-love
Jesus taught the lives of his followers would be marked not by a love of oneself, but quite to the contrary, by the denial of oneself and the lavish, self-sacrificing love of others.
Intrinsic in Jesus’ command that we should love our neighbor as ourselves is the understanding we already love ourselves sufficiently. We don’t have to be told to love ourselves more, to do so is to treat the problem as though it is the solution. We are born with a bent toward self-interest and most people spend their lives pursuing it passionately. This is another lie the self-love movement perpetuates - you are the point. Life is about you. You make the rules, you call the shots, you set the agenda. Ultimately, your fate lies in your hands. You are the one who decides how much or how little this life affords.
The Gospel declares a contrary perspective, one that grates against every single bit of self-interest in our bones, life isn’t about you - it’s about God. This was the ruling principle of Jesus’ life. Though God himself, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, rather he made himself low, condescending even to the point of becoming a man and submitting himself to death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). This is the model we are to follow - not one of self-exaltation, but of radical self-denial.
Whereas the self-love movement says, “Love yourself.” Jesus says, “Love your neighbor.” (Mark 12:31)
The self-love movement says, “Believe in yourself.” Jesus says, “Believe in me.” (Mark 16:16)
The self-love movement says, “Live your best life.” Jesus says, “Don’t be anxious about your life.” (Matthew 6:25)
At the end of the day, all the “rah-rahs” of the self-love movement miss the point that we are not the point. We don’t need to think more highly of ourselves, we don’t need to think less of ourselves, we simply need to think of ourselves less.
You are valued, but you are not the point
Every human being is imbued with an intrinsic value based on their position as an image-bearer of God. Indeed, each of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” This alone is what makes us, and every other human enough. Enough to be counted worthy of hearing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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