If you were in my thoughts for the day, I think you’d be surprised how many negative thoughts pass through my brain. Things like:
I’m not good enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not worthy enough.
I’m just not enough.
To be honest I have never been a highly confident person. But I also wouldn’t say that I have an extremely low self-esteem. I find myself somewhere in between, bouncing between the high and low.
I know what the Bible says about who I am, and I know who God thinks I am. But I still find myself teetering between what I know versus what I feel.
And if I’m truthful, sometimes what I’m feeling comes out in the way that I treat others.
I never wake up and make the conscious decision to treat others the way I feel. But I often find myself at the end of the day wondering why I said what I said, reacted the way I reacted, and felt the negative feelings toward someone else I felt.
After years of wrestling with this, I’ve come to understand it’s a love issue.
One reason why I think we struggle so much to live out the second greatest commandment is because honestly, we struggle to love ourselves the right way.
There’s a saying: Hurt people hurt people.
We could insert a dozen other words into this phrase, such as:
People who struggle to love themselves, struggle to love their neighbors.
Somehow, the message to love yourself like God does was turned into pride. People with too much confidence in themselves were deemed arrogant or full of themselves.
Nobody wanted that.
And so we ran the opposite direction, creating this unhealthy consequence in thinking low of others. But that route seems to have left us in disobedience to this command.
If Jesus said loving our neighbor was the second greatest commandment, we need to understand what the first is. It’s found in Mark 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.” (NIV)
Thankfully, God doesn’t just expect us to “get this.” He provides so much Scripture for us to fill our minds with His love, in order to live out His commands.
Love God with all your heart.
What we receive is what we can give. Daily, we need to receive this unending love God has for us. Receiving what we need is the only way we don’t run “dry” in our ability to give love to others.
Love God with all your soul.
Our souls are a complicated place. One way we can love God with our souls is to seek repentance, a daily cleansing. The more we receive God’s forgiveness, the more we can offer forgiveness to others.
Love God with all your mind.
As we think of ourselves how God thinks of us, it becomes easier to think of others like God thinks of them. God is not the author of anyone unworthy or unloveable. May we take captive these thoughts and replace them with the thoughts God has for us.
Love God with all your strength.
Each day we get up and keep going. Strength isn’t a place of perfection but a place of perseverance. When we don’t give up on God, it allows us to have an extra dose of grace to not give up on ourselves or on others.
The way we view God is so closely intertwined with the way we view ourselves that we can’t separate the two. And the way we view ourselves and the way we treat others is so intertwined we also cannot separate the two.
So if it feels hard to love others today, maybe we should start by loving ourselves. Let’s receive what we need — so we can give to others what they need. Then, we can live out Mark 12:31 and watch the world around us change, one step of love at a time.