He Loves Himself

"He loves himself. 
He thinks he’s grand. 
He goes to the movies and holds his hand..." 

This silly schoolyard poem from my childhood expresses the negative attitude toward self-love prevalent in the early 1960’s. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and we find the attitude toward self-love expressed in the popular Whitney Houston song, “The Greatest Love of All”:

"I never found anyone to fulfill my needs...So I learned to depend on me...the greatest love of all is happening to me...I found the greatest love of all inside of me… Learning to love yourself…It is the greatest love of all.” 


According to Houston’s lyrics, our well-being depends on our ability to love ourselves. Jesus says “I command you to love each other in the same way that I have loved you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friend” (John 15:12,13). 

We’ve spent almost four decades trying to build people’s self-esteem because a variety of experts (to include many Christians) have convinced us that low self-esteem is the cause of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, rebellion, unhappiness, poor achievement, and a plethora of other harmful behaviors. In fact, experts tell us that rude, arrogant people are actually compensating for their poor self-esteem! 

The Bible takes a different view. It says bad behavior comes from our fallen human nature and our tendency toward sins like selfishness, irresponsibility, pride, unbelief, or laziness. And statistics prove this--crime, immorality and discontent have increased right along with the self-esteem movement. 

Self-esteem advocates insist we all deserve unconditional acceptance, but God “accepts” us conditionally, depending not simply on our performance but on our heart attitudes and our values. For example, Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud, and Jesus says in John 15:14 that only those who do what he commands are his friends. James 1:5-8 says that a double-minded man “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” 

Actually, unconditional acceptance is a fallacy: we hire the best person for the job, we choose friends who treat us kindly, we rely on responsible people, we frequent businesses that treat us fairly, etc. 

Self-esteem teachings originated with psychologist Carl Jung who was openly hostile to Christianity. While there are nuggets of truth in the philosophy, the premise is seriously flawed. It assumes we’re born without a fallen nature and blames our problems, feelings and emotional health on our environment and circumstances. 

While our circumstances influence us, the Bible says our choices are what rule our lives. Joseph’s life in Genesis is a wonderful example. Raised in a dysfunctional family (multiple marriage, jealousy, murder, incest, rape), he lived a valuable life by making choices based on love for God—not love for himself. 

We’re fallen human beings, and we won’t be completely happy and secure until we’re in heaven. We won’t overcome insecurity, confusion, fear, and sorrow by loving ourselves. We’ll move past it by loving and trusting God, yielding ourselves more fully to His will, and dying to ourselves. 

According to Scripture, great self-esteem is not the solution to problems--it’s the cause of them: 
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

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