The Problem With The Self-Love Movement

I’ve been impressed with the amount of Christians who preach, teach, and disseminate the idea of self-love; as if we need to be reminded to love ourselves. Throughout my social media, I see people sharing motivational quotes, saying “all you need is inside of you” or “love yourself first and everything else falls into line”. People really bought into the idea that we have to love ourselves first before we love others. This type of thinking is becoming more and more popular and they even try to use the Bible for their explanations. Not only that, they say that we need to learn to love ourselves and that is actually a command given by Jesus. If I scroll down my Instagram or Facebook feed, one thing I have no doubts about is how much people love themselves (me included). We don’t need to learn more about it, much less be reminded to exercise self-love. It comes naturally.

The number one reason people fall into the temptation to believe that loving ourselves first is necessary, is because we are selfish by nature. We naturally want to do things that will make us feel good and if we can justify it, that’s even better. However, self-love is not Biblical. In Ephesians 5, when Paul talks about how wives and husbands should treat each other following the example of Christ, in verse 28 he addresses specifically the husbands. 

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

Ephesians 5:28-30

Paul says that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, and then he explains “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” It is clear in this passage that loving their wives as their own body means that they are supposed to treat their wives as good as they treat themselves. Paul doesn’t leave any room for conditions, he doesn’t wonder if the husband loves his own body or not; because loving our own bodies is not something that we need to be reminded of, it’s a given.

One Bible verse that is used to say that Jesus is commanding self-love before loving others is in Matthew 22 when the Pharisees tried to test Jesus. They asked Him which is the great commandment in the Law and Jesus answered them with two commandments:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

The first commandment is clear that we are to love God above all things. The second commandment is the one that can be interpreted wrongly, but it is actually very simple and we should understand it the same way we did in Ephesians 5:28. Jesus is commanding us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, not because we need to learn or be reminded to love ourselves more, but because we are already great at loving ourselves. He is simply saying that the same way we are great lovers of ourselves, we should love our neighbors as well. The main point here is to love our neighbors, not to love ourselves more, but to re-direct self-love to loving others. Self-love is ultimately pride.  

Throughout the Bible we see commands to deny our selfish nature and tendency to love ourselves, and instead to love others. Philippians 2:3-4 says “ Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

In 2 Timothy 3 Paul lists characteristics of the last days and the very first one is “people will be lovers of self”.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

So what is the problem with self-love? The problem is that self-love puts all the emphasis on ourselves and takes away from God. It goes against the very first commandment to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind, and makes it about us. As Christians we should know that nothing is about us, it is all about God. Saying that we have to be reminded to exercise self-love only makes us worshipers of ourselves. It makes us forget how bad and sinful we actually are. We instead should be reminded of the example in John 3:30 when he says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Our goal should be to make our lives more about God and others, and less about ourselves.

As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

“The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself.” 

Ana Luiza Lupinetti is passionate about helping and serving people. As a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife, she loves using her gifts and talents to help ministries succeed.