It’s Not All About Me, and It’s Not All About You Either.

Posted on May 4, 2012 by

We are in a particularly busy season right now with the end of school, an upcoming graduation, scholarship hunts, club meetings, community service and other duties that need to be balanced against the scheduling needs of young children. Some days, I’m tempted to play the martyr while “suffering” through my mountain of daily duties.

Weeks of this type of living brings out the worst in me because I am, at heart, a homebody. It is not uncommon for consecutive days to go by without my car leaving this house. And like most people, when I feel compelled to do what I would rather not, or am just plain tired, my emotions kick into high gear. Fortunately I learned years ago not to open my mouth when I feel overwhelmed. Nothing good ever comes from that.

My closed mouth and my active imagination are two very different things, however. Passive aggressive tendencies tempt me to express my frustration without a word. Pretending not to hear my children calling out to me yet again for something they are well able to do themselves. Or forgetting to run that errand that my husband has piled on top of every thing else I’m juggling that day. It has been years since I’ve given myself over to these vain imaginations, but they’re always there, beckoning me some relief. Imploring me to take care of me. You know, because I have to love myself first.

I love the Bible for many reasons, but one in particular is because when I’m right at the brink of allowing myself to fully indulge my own insanity, it pulls me back. Back to a place of gratitude. Back from that ugly place inside that seems justified in crying out, “But what about me???” You know, because I have to love myself first. At least that’s what this culture teaches women: You can’t truly love anyone else until you love yourself first.

Do I have to love myself first? Am I even supposed to? Is not the first and greatest commandment love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. From a purely Biblical standpoint, do you see who is first on the list, and who is last?And if that’s not evidence enough of how we are to serve, the Scripture goes even further:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

So not only am I to love God first and foremost, and love my neighbor (yes, as myself, we’ll get to that). But to help me when I grow weary in well doing, He reminds me to drive my daughter to piano lessons as if I’m doing it for God. I should fix my husband’s dinner plate as though I were fixing it for the Lord Himself. How’s that for a Christian perspective on loving yourself first?

I hear it from other Christians to remember to take time for myself. If not, I’ll have nothing left to give to those I love. I understand the affection behind such advice. I know that part of loving my family is being sure to tend to my own health and peace of mind. And yes, I can appreciate that it’s good to enjoy doing some things that I enjoy for no other reason other than that I enjoy them. I get to do that more often than I want to admit, as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this post. And so do you, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading it. But the flesh is never satisfied and it will always distort reality to make us feel as if we need more or we’re doing without even if it couldn’t be further from the truth.

It occurred to me recently that this whole idea of loving yourself first is a key to the mystery of why families aren’t thriving. In 18  years of marriage, if I had loved myself first, my family would have broken apart years ago. And my husband would say the same thing on his end. Just because we expend ourselves in service to our families, it doesn’t mean we aren’t loving ourselves. There are very few people who don’t love themselves. In fact, if you can even ponder the idea that you don’t love yourself enough, you probably love yourself too much. The whole reason the Scripture admonishes us to love our neighbor as ourselves is because loving yourself is a given. Would you poison yourself? Or curse yourself? Of course not. Excepting for serious psychological issues, we all love ourselves. It’s love for others that is missing in our families. There is more than enough self-love.

When couples divorce (and women file 70% of divorce petitions), it’s always because someone has decided that they “deserve more” out of life. Of course there’s the obligatory nod given to the children: they’ll be happier if mom is happy. Another myth, by the way. When we make it about our happiness, it’s not our children’s well beings. It’s not the commitment we made before God and our families. It’s all about us. Even when we manage to hold together the tattered strands of a relationship based on what we can get rather than what we can give, it never blossoms into all God created it to be because focus on our dreams, our desires, and what we’re giving up keeps us from enjoying our families the way we could. I have concluded that it’s because we have no idea what love is, and the lax use of the word is starting to irk me.

Did you know that in the Greek language (the original language of the New Testament) there is a different word used for love depending on the type of feeling or action represented? In English use the same word, love, to describe any kind of strong attachment. Most of us, myself included, marry while living in the fog of eros love. It’s love driven by desire. And desire is all about what I get.

The kind of love that God gives us, and by extension commands us to give to others, agape, is all about giving. And giving when it’s inconvenient, when it hurts, when our own selfish interests may have to be pushed aside. Is it any wonder that when intense eros ebbs, and it always does at some point, that a marriage begins to crumble if agape isn’t the ultimate and ruling force in a relationship? Agape love is not about loving ourselves. It’s about loving as God loves. It compels me to give my husband a back rub, especially when I feel like I could use one myself. It compels me to listen to the trials of my daughters day even as my mind is heavy with my own day’s trials. Real love is blessing others with the love that God has so richly poured upon me.

It is quite simply, all about Him and not about me. But He has the most glorious way of blessing me when I get my mind off me. Those little moments you can miss if you’re not paying close enough attention. When my 3 year old declares from her car seat behind me, “I love you, Mommy.” When one of my 16 year old daughters kisses me on the cheek, seemingly out of the blue. When my husband comes up from behind and says “I love you”.  I respond that I know and he says, “No, really.” Does it get any better than that this side of heaven? I think not.

It’s worth every sacrifice.