«And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ » (Matthew 22:39).
The command «You shall love your neighbor as yourself» suggests that our love toward our neighbors should be boundless and generous, since all human beings possess a reasonable degree of self-love. It is a similar comparison to Paul’s advice when he said, «husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies» (Eph. 5:28), because it is normal to look after and protect our own body, seeking our well-being and avoiding pain. However, there are exceptions to this rule. There are many people who are affected by emotional imbalances and end up despising themselves. We have found good-looking young people with great academic, leadership, and musical skills who are convinced that they are ugly, clumsy, and lack musical and leadership abilities. All these are the result of poor self-esteem. Furthermore, there are those who have reached the lowest point and show suicidal tendencies or even have attempted to commit suicide.
With this self-hatred, we cannot ask them to love their neighbor «as themselves» since we would be asking them to hate their neighbor. But what does it mean to love ourselves? For some, it implies taking care of our physical appearance and trying to stay young as long as possible. After years of Botox and face lifting becoming popular, we began to see that this type of self-love had negative effects. In Hollywood, directors are worried about retouched faces, because they find it impossible to shoot facial close-ups that reflect true emotions.
Furthermore, there are studies that show that, besides limiting facial expressions, these artificial methods of staying young limit the emotional experience. Brain scans have revealed that emotion centers were stimulated not only by one’s will and one’s thoughts but also by facial expressions; so when these expressions are not properly conveyed, the emotional response is half-detected. Reacting this type of extreme «self-love» is not the best solution for a lack of self-esteem.
The «self-love» the Bible is talking about must be converted into acknowledging the gifts received from our Creator, being aware of their value, happily accepting them, and using them to serve others and to glorify God.
Let us contemplate our God-given strengths, today. Let us thank God for everything He has given us and ask Him to give us genuine opportunities to put them to good use, according to His will.