When Scripture says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," it is not saying, "First learn to love yourself, and then love your neighbor." Rather, it is saying, "It is obvious you already love yourself. Love your neighbor in the same way." It is this love of self, this obsession with self, that gets us into trouble. We don't need a better self-image. We don't need greater self-esteem. And we certainly don't need more self-love.
But here is what we do need. Jesus said "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). Notice that He did not say, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him esteem
himself " or "let him love
himself." Rather, Jesus said, "Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." In the original language, the word deny
means "to repudiate, to disdain, to disown, to forfeit, to totally disregard." That is not an easy thing to do.
So in reality, the basic problem in our lives is not our spouse. It is not our boss. It is not our neighbors. It is not our upbringing. It is not low self-esteem. And it is not a poor self-image. It is the overt love of ourselves. Jesus said, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:18-19).
So here is what it comes down to: the ultimate choice in life is between pleasing ourselves and pleasing God.