Banned Phrase: You Must Learn to Love Yourself

“Banned Phrases” is a recurring and fantastic feature here at Unapologetic. They are phrases that are oft repeated, and either: annoying (i.e. the word “yummy”) and/or ignorant (here). So I, the king of quite alot (ok – king of nothing) have banned them!

Today’s Banned Phrase: “You have to learn to love yourself.” 


 Gag. Me.

That phrase produces the same gastro-burn as the word “yummy.” Unless its a grown man using the word “yummy” – then it’s a HYPER burn. Figure out another word. Sheesh.

Everywhere in therapeutic culture we’re told “you have to learn to love yourself”, and “the greatest love of all is to love yourself.”

First of all, let’s dispel the notion that there is any truth in this statement at all, Biblically speaking.

1. Nowhere, NOWHERE  in the Bible are we told to love ourselves.

2. For God, it’s a “given” that we love ourselves. “Got a verse for that David?” Actually, I’ve got DOZENS.

I’ll give you 3:

 a. God said “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”  Eph. 5:2

 b. And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (as in “like I, Jesus, already KNOW you love yourself. So your neighbor? Love them like that.).Matt. 22:37-39 

 c. God said “For people will be lovers of self…” 2 Tim 3:2. Warning – focusing on loving yourself is bad, bad voodoo – if this describes you, Paul says in verse 4, you are to be “avoided”.

 d. Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY himself and take up his cross and follow Me”. Matt. 16:24

 e. I could go on all day – but that would be ridiculous. I just gave you 4 instances (only promised 3) which speak of our universal self love. This “self love” that pop psychology says we need to “learn”,  is actually the love that Christ wants to vanquish.

3. Who says we need to learn to love ourselves? Not Jesus! WRONG religion! It’s this guy: 

Buddha, not Jesus, said “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Oh, and Deepak Chopra preaches a pretty decent self love gospel. And Shirley MacLaine. They also think we’re gods in the making. But conspicuously absent from Christ’s comments – anything approaching even a hint that you need to “learn” self love.

4. Self love is the problem Jesus overcame on the cross.

When my daughter was probably in 7th or 8th grade, we were out in the country driving from the property to Dairy Queen in a small Texas town, and a Whitney Houston song came on – The Greatest Love of All. I said to my daughter – “Listen up and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with this song.”
She started laughing at the first line “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” Great advice. “Follow the children.”  “We need a deep thought in the song – use the word ‘children’. It sounds so well, you know…ummmmmm….what is it…hhmmmm…oh yeah. Deep.”
But then the song got to the big verse – The Greatest Love of All. Now…if you’re going to name a a song “The GREATEST Love of All”? You better deliver!
 What is this GREATEST LOVE OF ALL of which you sing? A mother’s love for her child? Christ’s love for us? A female spider’s love for its mate, I mean? For eating it’s mate, mean? Maybe it’s Superman’s love for Lois Lane? 
I mean come on – it’s THE Greatest Love of All – it’s got to be HUGE right? Masterful! Moving! Momentous! 
Well…here it is:
“The greatest love of all. 
Is easy to achieve. 
Learning to love yourself. 
It is the greatest love of all.”

My young kid busted out laughing because of the sheer stupidity of that song. I mean really? Really? The greatest love of all is loving yourself? You mean to tell me the GREATEST love of all is pure, unadulterated narcissism? Selfish, self-centered, self-seeking love? Really? Put that on your tombstone and see how it works: “He loved himself more than anyone else.”

The song is 100% right about one thing – self-love is easy to achieve. Because we’re born loving ourselves. The problems we have in our world are caused by too much selfish, self-centered, self love. And taken to its logical extreme you get a Hitler, a Mao, a Pol Pot, a sociopath. All loving themselves so much they were willing to go to any extreme to satisfy their desires.

“But David! I DO hate myself. I hate myself for my cellulite thighs, the jobs I’ve lost, the bad relationships I’ve had.”

Wrong. If you truly hated yourself, you’d be glad that you have dimpled thighs, a bad employment record and ruined relationships. You’d say “I’m so glad I stunk at that job and got fired, because I HATE myself.” When you hate someone you wish bad on that person. You’d celebrate the bad that happens to you.

But you don’t. It hurts. It makes you sad. Just like it would if those bad things happened to anyone else you truly loved. You love yourself.

The way out of this self love hell (literally) hole? “Die to yourself, live for Christ.” John the Baptist said “He (Jesus) must increase, and I must decrease.

Bottom line? Jesus is the something. I am the nothing. The greatest love of all (besides Christ’s love for us), is when we learn to deny self, cease dwelling on self, quit focusing on self, and love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, and mind.

Don’t worry about loving yourself. Learn to love Jesus. And everything else will fall into place.

In Christ Alone,

Pastor David

3 thoughts on “Banned Phrase: You Must Learn to Love Yourself

  1. I don't know a whole lot about the Bible but I thought Jesus stated “somewhere in the Bible” to love God first, then love others as yourself. If we do not “learn to love ourselves” then we won't be able to successfully love others and bring them to the gospel. Living with narcissism, self hatred, lack of self love is a dangerous place for any Christian to live.


  2. To Anonymous 1 – the verse you're referring to is mentioned in point 2b and actually proves the opposite of what you say, so it seems pointless to reply, but I will.

    Jesus says love your neighbor like yourself, because Jesus knows you love yourself and is giving you a known reference point for how to love your neighbor (“you know how to do this – now do THAT the same way”).

    Your idea that it means “learn to love yourself first” completely and bizarrely twists the plain and simple meaning of Christ's words (and that is by the way, a seriously dangerous place to live).


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