Redeeming self-love

Christopher Lasch wrote a marvelous book entitled, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. He chronicles a pitiful sort of self-love. He diagnoses our culture with a self-love that fails to recognize its own limitations, the source of the self which it loves, and the importance of relationships, traditions, contracts, and obligations. I tend to agree with his assessment.

From a Christian perspective, the easiest way to “fix” the problem is to never talk about self-love except in the negative. This is one of our chief sins (throwing babies out with the bath water in our culture I mean…or just throwing them out). Rather than destroy self-love, the Biblical material indicates that we simply must put it in the proper order. Paul assumes that the average husband loves himself (he who loves his wife, loves himself). Similarly, Jesus and Moses assume that the average fellow loves himself enough to use that as a gauge for neighborly love. But, though the Bible assumes that people care for their own needs it does not assume that they do so well.

The reason that the Bible assumes self-love is that, in the ancient world the words which translate “love” in our Bibles often meant something more than mere affection.1 They meant something like “see to the well being or pleasure of.” So, to love yourself meant “to see to the well-being of yourself.” Most people, who do not have a derangement, love themselves in this way. They may do it poorly or in an ill advised manner (over eating, smoking, dating doofuses, etc), but they do it. The Biblical picture, though it assumes that people generally love themselves, also does not authorize sloppy self-love.

I propose a cure for sloppy self-love. Get wisdom and understanding.

For instance:

Whoever obtains wisdom loves himself, and whoever treasures understanding will prosper. (Pro 19:8)”

To love yourself get wisdom. Examples of Biblical wisdom include: learn to stop being lazy, save your money, give to the poor, deny yourself daily, when you fast do not act gloomy, speak less, listen more, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, husbands love your wives, wives respect your husbands, etc.

Get wisdom lest your sloppy self-love makes loving your neighbor as yourself a horrible nightmare for you and your neighbor.

1 See just about any dictionary of the Bible for that one. The Hebrew word used in the passage in questions does often mean affection but in this context it is clearly related to beneficiary action. 

A helpful excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism

Q. 22 .What then must a Christian believe?

A. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, our universally acknowledged confession of faith.

The catechism goes on to list the promises of the movements of the Creed. It is very helpful. I would not formulate many things the same way the catechism does, but it is deeply edifying. I highly recommend a read through:

It has been a while

Blogging is pretty weird. I love blogging. I love reading blogs. Blogs authors have introduced me to more good literature than everything except following bibliography trails. I nevertheless rarely make time to do it.

But I am done teaching for the year, so expect my thoughts to appear more regularly. I am working as a research assistant and taking some college calculus, so there will be plenty of grist for the mill.