Love Yourself

*Posted by Barry Creamer

I recently attended an event thoroughly outside my comfort zone. In this case, its probably appropriate for it to remain there. Regardless, above the stage was a slogan as du jour for millennials as for baby-booming progressives: Love Yourself.

Forget all the otherwise perfectly appropriate commentary I would normally make here on the incredibly shrinking and isolated individualistic self of modern society. Instead, consider only the eisegetical tragedy resulting in untold numbers of sincere but light-headed Christian leaders guiding their sheep into tiny single-sheep enclosures where no one and nothing matters except the single sheep in that single cage.

The command itself is in the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The errant reading of that statement goes something like this: God commands me to love my neighbor in the same way or to the same extent as I love myself. So my love for my neighbor is contingent upon my love for myself. If I dont love myself, I have no command to love my neighbor and no measure for how to do it. So, in order to fulfill the command to love my neighbor, I must learn to love myself and practice it daily. Hence: love yourself. If the culture was more honest about this reading, it wouldnt actually be love yourself but simply love myself. (Readers may insert appropriate obeisance to Walt Whitman here.)

That reading is wrong for more reasons than I have time to address here, but at least and most obviously because it is the interpretation of an ancient text based on the anachronistic use of contemporary (pop) psychological concepts.

The meaning of the passage is actually quite simple, lying somewhere between the following two extremes, one a little too gentle for the context, the other a little too harsh. A little too gentle: learn to care about others to the extent you already naturally care about yourself. A little too harsh: you love yourself plenty already; give a try to loving someone else instead.

In short, before embracing the love yourself ethos which practically defines contemporary society, consider 1 Corinthians 13:5bLove is not self-serving.

Perhaps if we do a better job of loving others, others wont feel quite so compelled to force and feign loving themselves. Let me try that sentence again. Perhaps if I do a better job of loving others, they wont feel quite so compelled to force and feign loving themselves.

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