Yesterday I quoted from William Willimon’s book Sinning Like a Christian, in which he works through the Seven Deadly Sins. This book is full of so many helpful insights that I had to share just one more with you today. Willimon says:
“The Seven, said the medieval theologians, are radical distortions of love. If that is true, then Pride is otherwise admirable self-love [Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves] gotten out of hand, love that ought to be given only to God, given to the self as if the self were God…I like the idea of Pride as misdirected love, as love perverted and misapplied.”
I think Willimon is on to something here. We can’t love our neighbors as ourselves if we are constantly disparaging ourselves, not taking care of ourselves, or generally ambivalent toward ourselves. We all have been made in the image of God. This means we all have incalculable worth. So, when we fail to love ourselves in the appropriate way, we also fail to love our neighbor, and in turn we fail to love God…because for Jesus this command to love God is intertwined with the command to love our neighbor as well.
The problem isn’t loving ourselves; the problem is about the degree to which we love ourselves. When we place ourselves at the center of our own existence we are taking God’s place. In the end, pride distorts a healthy love of self into an obsession with self that leaves no room for God or others. Pride is isolation.
Do you love yourself? Are you constantly harsh and critical toward yourself? If so, you really can’t love your neighbor or God well. Maybe this Lenten season the focus is learning to value the image of God in you, so that in turn, you can value his image in others.
Do you love yourself too much? With a love that should be reserved for God alone? Does your self-obsession cause you to place yourself at the center of everything? Maybe for those of us in this category, this Lenten season can bring us to refocus on keeping God at the center, and allowing our lives to revolve around his.