Self-Love (Part 1)

Have you ever been a lone voice? Be it in the market place, place of education, home, family, friends … and things are said that you don’t agree with or support, do you make your voice heard? Or … do you keep quite. Rightly or wrongly, when I believe something is wrong I voice my opinion even when (knowingly) I am victimized and ignored or excluded. Although I was not excluded, I want to relate a true story.

It was around 1998 when I did a Diploma in Business Management with a reputable college in Pretoria. One of the modules was Human Resource Management. The lecturer was older than all in the class. I ranked second in age. Part of this module was him teaching Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy Needs, as the belief of those who put the course together was this would help employees be motivated to higher levels of excellence. If you are familiar with Maslow you will know he proposed that motivation is the result of one’s attempt to fulfil five basic needs, namely … physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization. Maslow believed these can create internal pressures that will influence the person’s behavior.

You must get this … the college was a secular business. The students taking the course were not Christian, yet they knew I was a Christian pastor. Maslow’s theory ignores Biblical teaching about man and the condition he finds himself in. Essentially it is a rejection of the Gospel and an insistence that man may, following “man’s five basic needs”, improve himself and be more productive. The lecturer used terms like self-worth, self-appreciation, self-like, self-esteem and self-actualization.

In psychology, the general term “self-esteem” is used to describe a person’s overall subjective sense of personal worth or value. This is the idea that you have the ability through “self-esteem” to define how much you appreciate and like yourself. I stood against this because self-esteem and all the other terms that flow from this does not match up to what the Bible says. The Biblical term is not “self-esteem” but “self-love”.

Let me explain … outside of the Lord Jesus Christ a person is wretched, pitiful and depraved. Man has one objective whether he knows it or not, and that is to satisfy his sinful nature. Man will pursue this pathway and even fall to Maslow’s theory of been able to improve yourself, your feelings about yourself and your perception of yourself. This is totally impossible because no man can deal with the sinful nature … but then at the same time, the theory does not permit the possibility of sin. When a person surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus, a few important things go before and after.

(1) The person first understands they are a sinner and enemy of God, rebellion against God at every turn.

(2) The person grasps that God is holy and hates sin in all its shapes and manifestations.

(3) The person believers that everything God says about Himself and about man is true.

(4) The person comes to the understanding that the Gospel is God’s love for them expressed at Calvary.

(5) The person realizes that unless they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, they will die in their sin and face eternal punishment. At this point the person knows that they have to exercise faith and repent … and does so.

(6) From then onwards it is loving, serving and following Jesus. The way one does this is through daily Bible readings, prayer, obedience, worship (Church) and service. As the person matures spiritually they understand more and more what Jesus’ substitutional penal sacrifice means and how they need to respond to the sacrificial love of God. Let me now explain the Biblical view of man and his needs compared to Maslow’s theory. Jesus says:

Mk 12:30 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

There are three things here.

(a) Loving God. This is where it starts … loving God is not just emotional. It is not just feeling. Many people might feel love is Hollywood style, but true love is not! It is emotional (heart), plus spiritual (soul), mental, intellectual, will (mind) and energy, body (strength). Here you notice that true love takes nothing for self … it is giving, sacrifice and total.

(b) Loving your neighbor. It is totally impossible to love a neighbor, who might even be an enemy, until you love God … and love Him properly because of gratitude for such a great salvation you enjoy. And note … this love includes the four dimensions (heart, soul, mind and strength).

(c) Loving yourself. Before salvation you could not love yourself. Loose living, drunkenness, wild living, substance abuse, fighting … and a host of other things show that you cannot love yourself. For example, if you smoke tobacco … you know it’s going to kill you. That’s not love! But in Jesus you want to honor your new Master by caring for yourself … because now you are able to love yourself.

How it works is like this … you love God and this enables you to love yourself and now you are able to love your neighbor, which means loving everyone else on the planet apart from yourself. Ooooops! Did you see that? It’s not self-esteem, self-value, self-worth, self-actualization or any one of the other phrases … it is self-love. I am able to love myself because God loves me and has, and is transforming me into the likeness of the Lord Jesus. Once I am able to love myself because I am a new creation in Jesus, I am able to see value in myself because God is honing me, making better. He is making me a more useful citizen of His Kingdom which in turn helps me to be a better member of the family, employer or employee at work, friend, neighbor and member of the Church. Not self-actualization but self-love … because of the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. In short, only the gospel can help me be a better person … not Maslow’s theory! This is an introduction to the Book of Daniel. I would like to spend some time looking at “Dare to be a Daniel”.

Lord God You changed me because of Your Love. Please help me to remember that in Jesus I am complete and ready to be your child wherever I am, for Jesus sake. Amen.