For Christmas a few years ago I was given the three letters to spell joy and as I looked at them today on a what-not shelf, I realized the subject of this devotional. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying to find “joy,” consider Jesus first, others second and yourself last. I thought that way for most of my life but the last few years, I’ve realized that the first commandment Jesus said is to love God with all our hearts and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-40). The more I’ve thought about this, the more I say we must love ourselves before we can know how to love others!
That doesn’t mean a selfish or greedy kind of love of ourselves, but it says we understand somewhat the tremendous love our Father lavishes on us and realize that being His children makes us worthy. Self-identity and self-respect come from recognizing God’s love for us. We don’t put ourselves down while at the same time we don’t think of ourselves as better than anyone else.
Someone who doesn’t love themselves really has no understanding of how to love another. Abusers can’t love others because they simply don’t know how. They don’t find themselves acceptable and lovable so how can they demonstrate that to others? People must learn to love themselves and then learn to love others. Babies don’t have love for their parents as soon as they’re born; they learn that as they grow, no matter how much parents love them.
That’s why Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we learn to appreciate who we are in God’s eyes, we accept that and rejoice in it. Then we understand how to love someone else because we begin to see them through God’s eyes.