“But...do you love yourself?”
This was the simple question that my spiritual director asked me the other day. Such a simple question, which in reality should have a really quick and simple answer. But sometimes even the simplest of questions can call to mind a complex web of memories and wounds.
If I based this self-love purely on a superficial level, then my answer would be quick and easy — yes. I did love myself, because there were a lot of things to love. I was healthy, privileged, and successful. I was doing well because of things that I had either inherited or out of my own work and strength.
But again: do I really LOVE myself?
If I looked a little deeper, I could absolutely pick out things that I did not love about myself. I could stand to lose a few pounds, maybe be more quiet, less uptight, not as stubborn, perhaps not make the mistakes that I have made in my past...the list goes on and on. There are so many things that I despise about myself.
When my spiritual director asked me this question, a whole tsunami of emotions washed over me. Though I had recently been on an upswing of positivity and self-love, this question brought it to a crashing halt. It made me realize that I wasn’t basing this self-love on something firm and strong. It had no foundation and it was based on really superficial things.
Things that, if we look a little closer, relied on my own strength and good deeds.
Jesus loves us not only because of our good works and the times when we are really strong — though of course, He loves those too. We’re all called to holiness, and by being Christ-like and doing good things, He loves us all the same!
But Jesus also loves us with our wounds, mistakes, and brokenness. In fact, He not only loves them, He desires them and He wants to take them on as His own.
This is why, when Jesus appeared to the apostles after He rose from the dead, He still had the wounds from the nails in His hands from when He was crucified (see Luke 24:36-49). Jesus could have returned in flawless perfection with no mark or scar on His body. Instead, He returned to show the apostles His humanity and the fact that He took on our sins because He loves us.
Jesus loves me regardless of the sins and mistakes that I have made in my own life.
The question then becomes, do I love myself regardless of the sins and mistakes that I have made?
When we come back to our Father in the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation, we are given an opportunity to repent for our sins and mend our broken relationship with God. He desires, wholeheartedly, to free us from these sins. If we make a true act of contrition, He forgives us. He still loves us.
But we also need to love and forgive ourselves. We can’t stay down and feel like we will never make it back to the top. The feelings of despair and anxiety that come about are symptoms of self-reliance.
Jesus wants to help you. Jesus wants to love you.
I came to realize that yesterday from the simple question that my spiritual director asked me. Jesus wants to love me and He wants to help me grow and reach heaven so that we can be united together for all eternity. But as much as Jesus can show me all the love in the world, I also need to show myself that same love that He has for me.
Friend, I encourage you today to really look within yourself and seek that self-love. You may feel unworthy or be afraid of the things you find. But I want you to know that I’m right there with you, and you don’t need to be afraid.
Jesus can take on anything — even the things that you are most ashamed of. He wants to take them. He wants to love you.
And now, we must do the same and love ourselves.
In learning to love ourselves as Christ loves us,