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April 26, 2022

Why Self Love Matters For the Woman of Faith

Today we’re talking all about that relationship with yourself and self-love and why for women, especially, it can be a little difficult. And we got to work on that.

I don’t know if I told this story already – I feel like I did, but I’m going to tell it again because it really hit me hard. I participate in a weekly homeschooling co-op with my eight year old daughter. Each family is assigned a week during morning assembly where they introduce and give interesting facts about their family. A few weeks ago, a mom was up front with her four young kids. Each of her children were sharing were sharing their favorite activities.

When it came time for the audience to ask questions, a little girl, probably about ten, raised her hand and asked the mom, “What do you like to do for fun? Just you?”

The mom was stumped.

She said, “oh me? What do I like to do for fun? I haven’t thought about that in a while.” All the moms chuckled because we could relate. She had four young children. She clearly spent time pouring herself into them, getting to know them and helping them find the things that they like and enjoy. She hadn’t thought about herself and she probably lost herself along the path.

If you want to stump a mom, ask her what she likes to do for herself by herself. Right?

And it was kind of funny, but then it wasn’t, because it kind of hit me hard. Why is it that everybody else matters? Why is it that we teach our children to find themselves, to seek out their purpose, to get to know who they are, and yet we don’t do that for ourselves?

Is it no longer fair for us to want the things we teach them to want for themselves?

This article is for that mom whose name will be unnamed, who couldn’t figure out what she liked to do, what mattered to only her. Although she is a phenomenal mom and she loves her kids well,  I don’t see evidence that she was loving herself well. Sometimes women, girls, are taught to love everyone else except themselves.

As we teach our girls to harness their passion, they’re still watching us. If we can’t do that for ourselves, what we’re really teaching them is that, yeah, maybe this is good for childhood, but when you grow up, your job is to be about everybody else. Forget about yourself, what matters to you and who you are, right?

That's what love is.

Christianity teaches us that love is self-sacrifice, that it’s self-neglect and martyrdom, especially targeted towards women. I don’t think that Jesus modeled this, but I think that the culture of Christian Love requires us to sacrifice ourselves for other people and to neglect ourselves in an endless need to serve.

Some things have gotten a little warped regarding love and sacrifice. Early biblical scholars wrote largely to a male audience. They were extolling self-denial over egocentricity, humility, over pride, poverty, over wealth, sacrifice over self-preservation because men needed to grow in this area.

But it’s funny because it’s often the women who take these teachings most to heart when women are already born nurturers. it is in our DNA. We are not just socialized, but our brain is bathed in estrogen and other hormones that shape us to be nurturing first. We are already bent that way.

We don’t need to be pushed further, because bending further that way is actually detrimental. It’s  important to note that love is not the same as martyrdom. Taking up the cross is not the same as getting on it. Jesus did that as an ultimate self sacrifice when he was done being human, but as a human Jesus did not model self sacrifice at his own detriment.

As a human, Jesus rested. He filled himself up. Even when others wanted more from him, he denied them to take care of himself- so much so, that they were angry with him. That is the example he modeled as a human. He understood that he had to fill himself up first, before he could go do the things he was meant to do in the world.

And when we act solely out of self-denial and sacrifice, it’s not health, it’s not obedience. It’s a fast route to burnout and dysfunction. When we swing that pendulum and hold self-sacrifice up as an idle, it creates problems that lead to health issues and disorders such as binge eating, obesity, hypertension, even sexual acting out.

It leads to bitterness, anger, resentment, depression, which is anger turned inward. These are not healthy states because we weren’t made to live this way. When we act as if love is always something to be directed, outward, aimed at everyone else, except ourselves, we are forgetting the actual commandments of Jesus.

The first commandment he said was the most important one is to love your God with your heart, your soul and your mind. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Think about that, love your neighbor as yourself. This second command assumes self-love. Self love must already be there first.

It assumes that we can only love our neighbor to the extent that we can love ourselves. It says to love your neighbor as yourself, not instead of yourself. Self love is not selfish it’s actually a commandment.

Love yourself and love your kids and your husband and your family and the people that you serve just as much as yourself. Because the consequence of not loving yourself is that you become out of touch with your own needs, your own desires, and become the woman who can’t answer that question. You lose your voice. You lack the capacity for genuine relationships that are built on reciprocity and mutuality.

the consequence of not loving yourself is that you become out of touch with your own needs, your own desires, to become the woman who can't answer that question.

And the biggest one is that you lose your influence. Not loving ourselves, limits our ability to live into our God-given gifts. The reason why God put you here on this earth, is to love, nurture and raise your children well. Absolutely, but there’s more. You have a purpose separate from your role as nurturer and it will look different over the seasons of your life.

And that matters. Love is not only self-sacrifice. As a mom, you would give your life for your child, but you don’t have to on a daily basis. Most of us never have to.

It is self-love, not self-denial that allows the Samaritan to do the most good. He doesn’t allow his care for others to distract himself from the journey. It delays him from the journey, but he calls for the community to help him so that he can continue on his journey.

Sometimes my friend, simply loving yourself is an act of holiness. So today, if someone were to stop you right now and say, Hey, how do you love yourself? What’s that thing that lights you up? What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? Why are you here?  I hope that you have an answer because it matters.

I didn’t come to preach to you today, but I guess maybe I did.  I’m going to stand on this soapbox because women need to bathe in it a little bit. If you don’t have an answer, I implore you to start seeking that answer. And if you do have an answer good for you, keep going, love yourself.

You’ve got this!

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