I’m pretty sure that Andrew Pettersen’s “Be Kind to Yourself” was written for me. If not for me, then for every Enneagram Type 1 who’s already skimming past this intro in favor of the deep, challenging stuff–don’t worry, I’m getting there.
Even though I love the song now, I actually hated it upon first listen. It drove me crazy because it seemed way too “soft” and self-focused.
So, like any driven individual, I refused to waste my time listening to “Be Kind to Yourself.” As much as I like Pettersen’s other music, I continued to skip over this one for three years. In fact, if it weren’t for the suggestion of a dear friend and mentor, I probably would’ve kept on shunning it.
But I did listen and when I did, I suddenly found myself crying.
“I know it’s hard to hear it
When that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can’t believe your Father knows best”
The lyrics only continued to puncture my hard-shelled facade as I kept listening:
“You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapons, darling take a deep breath
And believe that I love you”
Those words are so disarming to our battered souls, aren’t they? We all long to know that if we let go, we will be held.
As I later learned, Pettersen wrote this song for his teenage daughter who, like many of us, was stuck in “the cycle.” Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that crushing spiral in which we strive for perfectionism, inevitably fail, and then beat ourselves up in order to motivate another attempt at perfection.
It’s exhausting. And it’s fruitless.
With every spin of the cycle, our self-hatred grows deeper and our distance from God seems larger.
It’s as if, as Dane Ortlund writes in Gentle & Lowly, “our sins darken our feelings of [God’s] gracious heart.” We think that God is angry at our failure and that it’s up to us to fix our brokenness.
But here’s what I’ve learned: that self-hatred that we assume so righteous and godly? It’s pride–pride that’s disguised with makeup and a nice dress.
As I explained in another recent post, God’s not looking for us to flog ourselves for our sins. The Son has already taken the beating. Instead of living in condemnation, we can choose to show biblical grace to ourselves and others. We can be kind to ourselves. Here’s why:
God’s Definition of Self-Love Is Not Like the World’s
If you’re like me, your first response to self-love is a rolling of the eyes. Why? Because the world’s denotation is fluffy and egotistical. In truth, self-love is a right response to our identity in Christ. Did God create us and does He love us? Yes (Rev. 4:11; 1 John 3:1)! Are we called to love and give thanks to God for what He has created? Yes!
When we rightly see ourselves as His, we magnify His name–turning the focus off of us and onto Him. Like David concludes in Psalm 8: the dominion and blesseness we enjoy aren’t reflections of our greatness, but of God’s! When we recognize how God loves us, we can rejoice and proclaim, like David, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
That, in a nutshell, is biblical love of oneself. It’s not merely a self-affirmation statement or an ego boost. It’s a right recognition of our standing before God that then leads to a greater love of Him. It doesn’t give us license to sin or excuse our wrongdoing. It places them at the foot of the cross with humble repentance and restoration.
I’ve written extensively on the joy and challenge of letting g, letting go of the unknown and the uncontrollable. I’m here to report that it’s still not easy. And, it’s getting better. Without doubt, I know that I will look back on this COVID season and see it as one of the best seasons in my life. Why? Because God has stripped me of the known. If you’d asked me in March, I would’ve smiled and said I was doing fine. But I wasn’t. I was on the verge of quitting the pursuit of freedom. I was too scared to do anything outside of my structured little life. I was isolated, spiritually and physically starving, and riddled with anxiety. I was functioning but not living.
BUT GOD. When I reached the end of myself, I was shocked to find more grace. The process of leaning into that is arduous, no doubt. But it’s re-teaching me how to. I found that when I began receiving God’s love, I was able to love myself. I was able to start letting go, start letting others love me (a terrifying reality I’d all but avoided), and start loving others.
If you find that loving yourself and letting others love you is terrifying, you’re not alone. It is terrifying, and at the same time: it’s worth the midnight tears and the shaky baby steps. I’m still very much in the process of learning all this myself. But I am indeed learning to live again and I’m finding life pretty darn fantastic. And I want that for you, too.
You don’t have to be perfect. You are loved just the way He made You. Keep pressing forward, friend. Let this topsy-turvy time of life by the one in which you finally surrender.
And please: go listen to “Be Kind to Yourself.”
Ps. If you need someone to talk to, pray with, or just an ear to listen. Reach out to me. I’d be honored to walk alongside you.
2 thoughts on “What Are We to Think of Self-Love?”
Wow. Yes, God is speaking to me too. Thank you!
This is so good! I once wrote something like this in my blog called “Is Self-love for Christians?” and basically when we’re living in Christ, self-love has a different meaning than the world’s. It’s more of being sustained by and being soaked in the ocean of God’s grace, and living it boldly for the world to see the God that we serve. Thanks for sharing this! This is such a light. 🙂