Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
I’m getting riled up even as I write this.
Jesus, of course, calls us to a different way of life, one that is as radical as it is transformative. Without condition or caveat, Jesus instructs us to love our enemy, to do good to those who hate us, and bless those who curse us (Luke 6:27). This instruction runs counter to every inclination we have inside, particularly if we are recovering from some harm or wounding.
Jesus’ words are deeply challenging for how we treat others. Yet, they are also challenging for how we how we treat ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I am often my own worst enemy. Far too often, the enemy I fight with is not another person, a force of government, or a clash of peoples; my true enemy lies within. I speak things about myself that are not true; I criticize and judge myself worse than anyone else. I mistreat myself, and work in ways detrimental to my own health and well-being. I can choose courses of action that lead me farther from the life Jesus longs for me. If the call of Jesus is to love our enemy, then this is also a call to love ourselves.
This may appear difficult at times, but Jesus offers a simple way forward. Loving ourselves is choosing to see ourselves as loved by God. After all, it is our inner enemy that tells us that we are unloved. Our inner enemy nitpicks over the littlest of things, magnifying them into eternal condemnations. The words of Jesus call us to claim God’s love even when we feel we are at our worst. Jesus invites us to dare to believe that we are made in God’s image, that we are acceptable to the Lord.
Similarly, we are to do good things for ourselves. We are to be the recipient of care, kindness, and compassion. When is the last time that you did something good for yourself? As children of God, we do not deserve to be rejected, dismissed, or hurt. Our health and well-being matter to the Lord. How might you engage in self-care? What might it look like for you to take time for rest, recuperation, or healing? Loving ourselves involves stepping away from self-hate and cultivating times of joy, delight, and happiness.
Loving ourselves also means speaking well of ourselves. We bless instead of curse. Cursing means to speak words of ridicule or condemnation, to tear ourselves down verbally; cursing is the voice of judgement and unlove. To bless, however, is to say something good, to uplift and encourage, to offer words of support and care.
How often do we say good things about ourselves? How often do we affirm our value, our goodness, or our belovedness? Saying good things about ourselves isn’t empty positivity, it is a deeply spiritual act by which we verbally pronounce God’s delight for us. Blessing ourselves means we step away from the tendency to self-criticize, or to nitpick our flaws and imperfections. Instead, we remind ourselves that we are loved, and loveable; we claim our place as an important part of the world God has created.
Loving ourselves brings transformation, encouragement, and growth. Instead of dwelling on our perceived failures, we look at ourselves through the loving eyes of God; we treat ourselves kindly, and with compassion; we use our voice to uplift ourselves. None of these things are earth-shattering in the slightest yet living in this way brings freedom and joy into our lives.