Every veteran who enters our program struggles with “loving themselves”. Drugs, alcohol, depression, PTSD, are the familiar culprits which rob people of loving themselves. Notice here, I am differentiating between “loving yourself” from the contemporary social definition of “self-esteem”.
Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, is misunderstood today. It’s the “Love yourself” part that many people misconstrue with self-esteem. Self-esteem is a psychologically oriented concept where self-love is a biblical one. The former is subjective and has led many to worship a God of Self.
This self-love which Jesus is talking about is not about self-esteem, self-acceptance, or even having a positive self-image. The kind of love that Jesus means in loving your “neighbor” is the same meaning of love he has for “yourself”. For instance, you are loving (seeking the good) of your neighbor when you help him care for his lawn, provide him with a occassional meal, or take in his mail. These are things you do as acts of love and service. In the same regard, you would want your neighbor to love you reciprocally with these same acts of service.
Another way of saying it is by the way the Golden Rule says that we must, “Love others as you would want them to love you”. The addict, alcoholic, or any person, for that matter, must see that it is “self-love” not “self-esteem” that’s driving the train here. This is a value grounded in God not self. The self (flesh) is deceptive no matter how you look at it.
John Piper rightly identifies the difference by saying that, “How you feel when you look at your life will be determined by whether you see it as a true reflection of you values. If you see ugliness when you value beauty, you will feel bad. If you see laziness when you value diligence you will feel bad; but if you see industriousness and rigor you will feel good. The intensity of how bad or good you feel will vary according to the greatness of the value and the degree of success or failure in realizing it. Thus, whether one has a positive or negative self-image will depend on whether or not he attains what he values.” (ref: Self-Love and the Christian Counselor’s Task, Sermon: http://www.desiringgod.org/resourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1978/ 2645).
Think of it this way; self-image is grounded in self. According to Scripture, “self” needs redemption. Self-love, on the other hand is grounded in God…because He made you in His image!