I was reading about the Great Commandment in Matthew 22. Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart soul and mind. Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I got to thinking, “This must be very difficult for some.” I’ve discovered that a lot of people don’t love themselves well. It must be hard to love your neighbor as yourself when you don’t love yourself very well. What do you think about that?
Maybe Jesus should have said, “Love your neighbor better than you love yourself.”
I came across a study by the American Health Organization that commissioned a Gallup survey about self image: “If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?”
They discovered that women would like a dress size two to four times smaller. They would like to be one inch taller; weigh 11 pounds less; have good muscle tone; curly brown hair and a bronzed suntanned look.
Forty-eight percent would cover aging symptoms; 37% would fix their teeth; 34% desire better legs; 18% desire smaller feet.
What would men change? Absolutely nothing! Men like themselves just the way they are! Just kidding!
The average man would like to be one inch taller; weigh several pounds lighter; and be more muscular.
Men want hairy chests because they think that women like men with hairy chests—and men are right! Twenty-eight percent would ask for less aging signs. Nineteen percent desire a smaller nose.
Gallup concluded that men are either more naturally contented or more naturally slobs! Just kidding! But, you get the idea.
Sarah, I’d like to answer your question by using material from one of my favorite books, “Telling Yourself The Truth.” I’m also intertwining my answer with materials and personal experiences from Dr. Steve Dowdle; Brianna Wetherbee; Julie Barrier and myself.
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
Matthew 22:34-39: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Unfortunately, many of us have a problem. We have trouble even liking ourselves. If we don’t like ourselves, then it is rather difficult to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Loving ourselves better means improving our self-image in a way that increases self-esteem.
We know better than to attack our neighbors with words like: “You are not pretty . . . You are fat . . . stupid . . . no good . . . defective . . . I have my mother’s thighs!”
Why would we treat ourselves like this? It depends on whether we have a good self image or a poor one.
WHAT IS A SELF-IMAGE?
Our self-image is the picture we have in our minds of ourselves.
Our idealized-self is what we think we ought to be.
Our self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves: good or bad.
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul had all three concepts in mind when he wrote: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
WHERE DOES OUR SELF-IMAGE COME FROM?
Our self-image is developed mainly from the images of ourselves which are reflected back to us by other people, our culture, and our God!
1 Corinthians 13:12: Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
The house of mirrors at the amusement park makes twisted images of ourselves. Some mirrors reflect us tall and skinny, short and fat, curved, all sorts of combinations.
My father mirrored back to me a great sense of worth: “Roger, you can succeed at anything you try. I see you loving people, building relationships and working hard. I am so proud of you.”
On the other hand, too often mirrors reflect to us poor images of ourselves: “You are always in the way. You will never amount to anything. You’re not worth my time. You’re lazy. I don’t know what I am going to do with you. You’re the devil’s child.”
Culture and society say that if we have beauty, we are a step up on others. If we’re not pretty or handsome, we can be brushed aside. Many feel forced to nip and tuck in an attempt to raise self-image.
Some base their identity on what they possess. They have an insatiable need to acquire things. When they don’t feel good about themselves they head for the mall.
Of course, we have reflections from our own hand mirrors of expectations, improper thinking, and faulty analysis of the people and events around us (Romans 12:3; Genesis 2:25, and 3:7)
Children pick up on all the imperfections around them, and, because of this basic bent toward wrong, they proceed to misinterpret what they take in, and this affects their self-image.
For example, “I caused mom’s and dad’s divorce.”
“Children are the world’s greatest tape recorders, but, they are the world’s worst interpreters.”
Reflections from Satan and his forces (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4; and Rev. 12:10) often lower our image. Satan has three basic roles? He is the Liar (John 8:44); the Accuser (Revelation l2:l0); and the one who blinds our minds (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Marvelous reflections come from the God Who created us (Psalm 139:13-16).If we are to become the people that God wants us to be, we must paint in our minds the image that God has in mind when He thinks of us as his finished work.
WHAT DOES A POOR SELF-IMAGE LOOK LIKE?
People With Poor Self-Images:
•don’t trust themselves to make the right decisions;
•question their abilities;
•worry about what people think of them;
•think that if people see them as they really are, they’ll be rejected;
•often wear masks in order to hide from self, others and God;
•work hard at proving their worth;
•have difficulty accepting compliments and criticism;
•have trouble separating “no” from rejection;
•struggle to let go of a negative past.
High Self Esteem opens the door to multiple ministries and places of service. Low self-esteem sabotages Christian service.
God envisioned a beautiful dream for his people as they marched out of Egypt. The Promised Land was theirs for the taking; but they crashed and burned. Twelve spies were sent to reconnoiter the land. Joshua and Caleb reported that the land could be won.
The remaining ten reported that it couldn’t be taken:
“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them (Numbers 13:31-33).
Few things stymie us more than thinking that we are grasshoppers.
The land was waiting; but, they forgot who they were; and what they were; and whose they were; and they wandered in the desert for forty years.
I know people who’ve a wondered in the desert—many for forty years. The reason is low self-esteem. We can’t do anything for God, because we see ourselves as grasshoppers.
Few things stymie more than thinking so little of ourselves that we never really give God a chance.
WHAT DOES A GOOD SELF-IMAGE LOOK LIKE?
People With A Good Self-Image:
•accept themselves for who they are;
•are willing to open themselves and share without fear of criticism or rejection;
•believe in their personal abilities to make good decisions;
•relate well to people and share other’s burdens while listening to their problems;
•have a sense of belonging to others, to a group, or to society;
•listen to complaints without going on the defensive;
•feel no need to super achieve in order to prove anything to anybody … “I am what I am.”
David said to King Saul: “I don’t need your armor! I have killed lions and bears. I felt the hot breath of the lion on my face. I have God on my side.
Goliath said to King Saul: “You send out a young dog to face me! You’ll be bird seed before the day is over!”
David replied: “Well, is that so, you uncircumcised Philistine. Your army will be routed by the armies of God before the day is over!”
David released the stone in his slingshot. The rock sank into Goliath’s head and down he went. David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head!
Now that’s a good self-image.
HOW MAY WE DEVELOP A GOOD, HEALTHY SELF IMAGE?
1. Develop An Accurate Baseline.
Analyze where you are in terms of your idealized self and your current self-image to get a sense of your self-esteem. Remember, the smaller the gap between self-image and idolized self, the higher your self-esteem will be.
When analyzing your base-line image, be careful about two things:
First, be careful that your idealized self is within the bounds of reality.
When I began pastoring my first full-time church I wanted to be the best pastor God ever had. Sometimes, I imagined God saying, “I’m so glad you’re finally here in heaven. We’ve been waiting for you. You’re the best pastor that I ever had.” My goal was to reach the entire city of Tucson for the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather soon, I realize that I couldn’t even reach all the people on my street for Jesus.
Second, don’t sell yourself short.
If the people around you often criticize you and tell you what a bad person you are, you may discover that it’s hard to imagine a healthy idealized self. Imagine it anyway! It’s one thing to aim too high. It’s a shame to shoot too low.
2. Distinguish Between What’s True And What’s Not. What’s Helpful And What’s Not.
Look for the truth. If we receive messages like, “You’re too fat, you’re stupid, you’ll never amount to much,” don’t incorporate those ideas without questioning them.
For developing a positive self image you must start questioning those ideas. If they’re not true then reject them. If they are true then work to better those areas.
3. Water The Flowers, Not The Weeds, In Your Garden.
I’m tired of telling myself that I’m too fat. I’m tired of thinking that Jesus is disappointed with me because I was not good enough as a pastor. I’m tired of telling myself things like, “I’m so selfish”; or, “many people at church don’t like me.”
What do you like most about yourself?
What results/achievements are you most proud of
What do you do well?
Think about those things.
4. Be Nice To Yourself.
I look in the mirror every morning and say: “Roger, you are the handsomest man I’ve ever seen.”
It is not true, but it feels good.
5. Invest Time With People Who Build You Up And Appreciate You For Who You Are. Limit Your Time With Those Who Put You Down And Constantly Criticize You.
6. Enjoy The Person Of Value That The Lord Jesus Has Made You To Be.
God is the correct mirror to reflect to us a proper image and self-concept.
If we can buy into the next several verses, our self-image and self-esteem will soar.
•God created us just below the angels (Psalm 8:1-5). He created us not just a little higher than the animals. He made man just a little lower than the angels.
•God prescribed us in detail before our birth (Psalm 139:14-16).
•God’s universal ideal is to develop our internal character to look like Jesus Christ (1 Samuel 16:70); Matthew 5:3-12; and Romans 8:28-29).
•”Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:70).
•Romans 8:28-29: He has predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son–emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
We may first need to settle some personal issues with God.
“You want me to find value and worth from God. Are you kidding me? After all that’s happened to me. I’m not certain that I want to trust God with my life!”
Let me answer this by using an illustration of a young girl struggling with her self-image.
“If you were standing in front of a mirror and had the power to change anything about the way that you look, would you use that power?”
“Yes, there are many things I’d like to change. I am too tall; my nose is too big; my face is really ugly; I have a bad complexion. . .”
This girl had an unconscious resentment of God for making her the way He did.
A boy that she wanted to date didn’t like her and she concluded that it was because she was too tall.
Many people think logically; but, to the wrong conclusions about God and the way He operates.
1. God is love.
2. God is the creator.
3. He created me.
Conclusion: If what I see in the mirror represents God’s creation and love, then He has already messed it up. I had better do the best I can because I can’t trust God.
This is all terribly false reasoning of what God is doing in our lives. Don’t miss the fact that there is a higher purpose and calling involved here.
God is creating in us a picture that allows us to reflect the image of himself that he wants to project to the world.
The differences in unchangeable features are God’s special frames to highlight His unique message through us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The picture is the inner qualities that God is developing in us. The frame is our outward appearance and “defects.”
The eye is attracted to the picture, not the frame.
The frame is to highlight and amplify the picture! It doesn’t outshine the picture.
God desires to reveal Himself through His creatures in much the same way that an artist will express his ideals, feelings, and desires in His paintings.
The purpose of the picture is that it might be placed in a position of prominence so that hundreds can admire and praise the ideas and abilities of the artist.
Let me tell you the story of Lisa Lee. She was brilliant
This young girl had a crush on me when I was a children’s church pastor at Northway Church. How did I know? Her father told me. Every time she’d see me at church, she’d squeal with delight and threw up her arms for a hug. Sometimes she would see me across a room and wave. Sometimes, she’d call out, “Roger,” and people would and look.
She was a remarkable girl. Her quick wit and positive outlook were a blessing to many.
Looking back I realize that I was too young to appreciate her love. It means more to me now than ever.
You see, her picture frame is horribly twisted. She suffers with a degenerating, decimating nerve disease.
While her frame is twisted, her picture is gorgeous.
7. Thank God That He Isn’t Finished With Us.
Like potter and his wheel. Only He knows how He wants to mold the product (Isaiah 45:9-10).
Philippians 1:6: “Being confident, He who began a good work will bring it to completion…”
Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Well, Sarah, I hope I’ve given you somewhat of a complete understanding of how to love your neighbor even better than you love yourself.