March is here, and in my mind, spring is here. Ash Wednesday is this week, the lenten season is upon us, and all of a sudden easter will arrive – resurrection, new life, new birth. I was reflecting this morning on self love and shared a brief sermon about the importance of it. Afterwards, I read this quote by Thomas Aquinas:
“Self love is the form and root of all friendship. Well ordered self love is right and natural – as much so that the person who hates himself or herself sins against nature. To know and appreciate your own worth is no sin.”
In the prayer for Ash Wednesday in the Book of Common Prayer it says, “God hates nothing he has made.” But we often hate ourselves don’t we? Or at least dislike ourselves not only from time to time, but often? I know that I’ve had a life long struggle with low self esteem and self hatred. But if God doesn’t hate me, maybe I can once and for all stop hating myself?!
Thinking that we are unworthy, sinful, wretches. After all God “saved a wretch like me,” didn’t he? The theology of so many people is built around this “wretched” theology. But hating oneself, or criticizing ourselves, our punishing ourselves, or any type of self flagellation is not a part of good theology or healthy psychology either. How can we love other’s well, if we can’t or don’t love ourselves? How can we even enjoy life, if we don’t enjoy our own company? Or as Amy B. Scher said,
“You are not in need of self help; you are in need of self love.”
Jesus never commands self love, but assumes it – “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Where did we ever get this notion that we are to beat ourselves up and put ourselves down? And how did we ever come to think that this is something that is somehow pleasing to God?
Old Martin Luther beat himself with a whip in his loathsome feelings about himself as a sinner. He punished himself with self hatred until he got in touch with grace and that being “saved” was not through punishment or suffering, but through faith in love.
So, during this lent, instead of giving up candy or meat or anything else if that is what you are in the habit of doing. How about giving up self criticism, self condemnation, and any other unkind and unloving thought we have about ourselves as an act of not only “glorifying” or loving God, but learning to also how to love God by loving ourselves.
Then perhaps we’ll know, metaphorically, the promise of spring and resurrection, as our self hatred melts and we learn to love and live in love and extend love even to the “least of these” which often includes ourselves – as those also who deserve most our own love, kindness and affection. As Carl Jung said:
“What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved — what then?” Carl Jung
Amen Carl! Amen!
…and some more quotes to ponder:
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Gautama Buddha
“Don’t forget to love yourself.” Soren Kierkegaard
“This revolutionary act of treating ourselves tenderly can begin to undo the aversive messages of a lifetime.” Tara Brach