It's an overworked phrase reflecting the selfish attitude of the "me" society. But, as is sometimes the case with quickly coined phrases, a different view f the concept can ffer fresh insights.
Exactly wht is the matter with a person loving himself? If he believes the verse in Genesis telling him that the divine creation is "very good," n1 and if he includes himself and others in this infinite creation, it is logical that he would believe himself lovable and precious to God. "Number one," you might say.
n1 Genesis 1.31;
In the Biblical admonition, reiterated by Christ Jesus, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," n2 there is a built-in assumption that one shoudl indeed love himself. Since the highest form of love a person could bestow on anyone would be to see that one as God's own image -- as His spiritual expression and not in imperfect material animal -- would it not follow that such a view of oneself would also be in keeping with the Bible's words? And are we really seeing ourselves correctly when we idulge empty moods of self-disgust or self-condemnation or guilt? Even feelings of inadequacy or inferiority are not truly loving.
n2 Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19;
This is not to say, of course, that one is free to sin and then no feel remorse or a need for reofrmation; overcoming sin is essential to bringing out one's true, immortal character. But sometimes the love we would heap upon others we mistakenly withhold from ourselves. In so doing, we are failing to honor our divine source.
I recall a time when I was coughing rather badly. I wanted to work out the problem through prayer, and I decided to look up the definition of "hell" in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scripturesm by Mary Baker Eddy. n3 There I found that one part of the definition reads, "self-imposed agony." n4 Self-imposed!
n3 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science;
n4 Science and Health,m p. 588.
Was I unwittingly harming myself? Was i denying the unity with God that I knew was my true nature -- instead of expressing it? My suspicions were aroused , and I decided that I'd better look out for number one by identifying myself as the loved image of God, Spirit, which I'd been reading about in the Bible.
I refused to think of myself as an inadequate, vulnerable, material being. That's what the material senses were insisting, of course, but I reminded myself that just as dream conditions are only true from the standpoint of the dream itself, so material conditions are only true to the material senses. If I, on the other hand, was making it my goal to reflect Spirit, if I was reasoning from the omnipotence of Spirit, I wouldn't hold myself to a material picture. I wouldn't impose an unnatural state on myself.
So I more firmly acknowledged my unity with Spirit and started out to see what I could of myself as a spiritual being. I thought about Christly qualities that I could begin exercising more fully -- qualities such as spiritual vitality , calmness, and joy. And it became increasingly natural to express these. This was just normal living. My thoughts became less involved with mym being calm or joyous and more involved with the divine source of those ideas. Because the source was good and constant, I knew the qualities could never falter.
Soon the coughing had stopped. What's more, I liked myself better. And when I thought of other people, I realized that I liked them better too.
Apparently the Bible's words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," work -- both ways!