Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)
I always thought that loving yourself meant living a selfish life. In addition, growing up I heard frequently that it was easy to love yourself because everyone naturally just did. Those two assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having been a parent for over a decade, I’m realizing that loving yourself is not something that everyone naturally does. There are a lot of people out there who truly do not love themselves, they may not even like themselves very much. However, in order to teach your children healthy boundaries, or even more, how to love themselves, it is important to have a healthy view of yourself.
I’m not talking about the self-entitled, self-centered message that the world loves to pass off as love. I’m also not talking about just loving your outward body, although that part is important too. I’m talking about loving yourself, and better still, viewing yourself in the way that your Heavenly Father sees and loves you. With the proper kind of love in place, then you can bless others by selflessly loving them as well as leading by example how to love themselves in a healthy way.
This kind of healthy love can show itself in many different ways. Some examples would include making sure to exercise regularly so that you feel good and have enough energy to accomplish the jobs that God has given you to perform. It means not denying yourself a cone when the family goes for its semi-regular ice cream run, but it also means not telling yourself you deserve brownies, cake, candy bars, and a whole bag of potato chips at one time because you had a bad day. It means sometimes going upstairs and soaking in a hot tub with a good book because you need to relax or sometimes it means cutting yourself some slack when you make a mistake. It may mean turning down the request at church to volunteer for the fifth Sunday in a row or going to bed early (or sleeping in late) in order to replenish your depleted sleep quota.
When your kids see you taking good care of yourself, staying in balance as best as possible, then they in turn are raised able to see the right way to handle situations. When you admit you were wrong and learn from your mistake, it might give your children permission to do the same when they inevitably mess up. Don’t be fooled – They are watching when you berate yourself for a small infraction even if you think you are hiding the frustration you feel with yourself.
A very wise woman reminds me regularly that it’s okay, in fact, it’s necessary to be kind to myself. When I do that, it frees me up to be kind to others, as well as to teach the next generation to pass that kindness along.