Love Yourself, Too
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
I first saw the words on a T-shirt 12 years ago: “Three priorities in life: Number one, God. Number two, others. Number three, self.”
I was new on the job as editor of a Christian newspaper, the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the job I’m still blessed to hold today, and after an entire career spent in the secular journalism and marketing industry, I welcomed this priority list. To me, it encapsulated exactly where my heart and mind needed to be. I was done putting myself first in a culture that seems hardwired to drive us to do just that. God must always come first, and after that, I needed to be concerned with the well-being, care, and love for other people.
Self came last.
But I might have taken those words a little too literally—so literally that self-care not only took the back burner but went off the stove entirely.
That phase, the start of my job at the Advocate, soon also kicked off one of the hardest periods in my life. My marriage unraveled, and soon I became a single mom of two very young kids. I was existing on four hours of sleep a night, lost so much weight my size-small pants were swimming on me, and soon became plagued both by migraines and by horrible stomach pain that started around noon and didn’t stop until nearly midnight every single day. It was a miserable time.
Eventually, life evened out and became steadier. I remarried and was no longer a single mom, and I began getting more sleep. My stomachaches finally subsided, and my migraines dwindled. I began spending regular time in God’s Word (The Holy Bible), learning to sit and simply be still, basking in God’s presence. My finances got under control.
And I finally learned that thing that had eluded me my entire life: I started to actually like myself. To enjoy time with myself. I appreciated who God had designed, flaws and all, and owned my quirks and talents. I strived to be the woman God wanted me to be, and it was liberating.
While I still value that priority list—God first, others second, self last—I’ve come to understand that perhaps the self isn’t actually meant to be last at all. God didn’t actually say put ourselves last. In fact, Jesus’s exact words from the Sermon on the Mount were, “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NIV). He also said the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:39).
He didn’t say love your neighbor more than yourself, he said love your neighbor as yourself. Care for your neighbor as though you were caring for yourself.
In order to do that well, I think we need to love ourselves too. It shouldn’t be neighbor over self, or self over neighbor—it’s equal. We are all together in this. When I feed my neighbor, I should be feeding myself, and vice versa. When I extended a kind word to my neighbor, I should be extending that same kind word back to myself. When I love on those in my inner circle, those who feel like an extension of myself, such as my spouse or kids, I should be loving my neighbor in the same way.
Sometimes we get our priorities skewed, but God should always come first. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that Jesus commanded us to love others as well as ourselves. Think on that. Pray on that. What does this mean to you?
If you are struggling with self-care, feeling exhausted, feeling burned out or depressed or down on yourself, ravaged with guilt or beating yourself up, remember to extend yourself the same kindness, love, appreciation, and forgiveness you do others. You’re part of the equation, too.
Let’s Pray: Lord God, thank You for the blessing of life. Thank You for the people around me. Help me to love myself and love others in a way that honors and glorifies You, pointing to You always. In Your holy and precious name I pray, Amen.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.
She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.
Jessica has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.