The greatest gift?

“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all” according to Whitney Houston.

The relationship we have with ourselves matters. At least’s that what we are told these days. I think there will be many ideas of what it means “love yourself” when we hear that phrase.

One that comes to mind immediately for me is how we use it negatively. I often hear “He/she/they really love themselves!” used as a slur or at least a suggestion that a person thinks more highly of themselves than others feel they should.

The other is the practice of self care which we are much more aware of in the current climate. Taking time out to do something you like, enjoy, or that brings you rest or peace, for no other reason than simply to care for yourself, is talked about a lot right now.

Are either of these what we mean when we talk about loving ourselves - thinking ‘(too) highly’ or ‘taking time out’?

I reckon both have their place. How we think of ourselves is very much part of loving ourselves. And making space in our own lives, for ourselves, is vital.

When Jesus was asked about what the most important things (or greatest commandments for life) were he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself”. I wonder, particularly, if we as people of faith, too often miss or forgot the “yourself” part, in the rush to make sure we love God and others? Some might even feel it seem wrong to place such importance on ourselves, when others and God are also in the equation. And yet we shouldn’t. Jesus included “yourself” and the relationship we have with ourselves for a reason. And I think it’s both a powerful and important one.

Rather than framing it as a slur and suggesting that loving yourself is something to be ashamed of, I think truly loving ourselves is a vital part of living life to the full.

To truly love ourselves means to recognise and accept that we have huge and unchangeable value as a person. Our life matters. We matter. You Matter. I matter. Not because of our work, our relationship status, our dreams, successes or failures, or anything else we could add to the list but simply because of who we are.

The truth is, we all struggle with that. Our sense of self worth is complex and so often is impacted by external circumstances, seasons and events that are outside of our control. Having a deep, true and positive sense of self takes practice and time. It can, for some, mean unpacking things that have sought to destroy who we believe ourselves to be - that can be painful but also hugely powerful.

It strikes me that learning to love ourselves also impacts our ability to love others and love God. If we truly can show ourselves compassion, grace, kindness, understanding and patience, all while understanding our incredible worth

as individuals, surely how we love others will be different? And if we have a true sense of value and a human being, might that also determine how we interact with, know and love God?

Jesus made clear that love of God, others and ourselves is key to living life in pursuit of God’s Kingdom. So could Whitney Houston be onto something? Could learning to love ourselves be the greatest gift both to ourselves and the world around us?

This is Relationships Week led by Relate NI and the theme is #LoveYourself. We are delighted to be partnering with them to support it, by running a drop in event on Friday 9th from 10.30am - 1pm at Lef