By Julia Powers

Loving Your Neighbor Means Loving Yourself

One week into my sophomore year of college I saw a poster in a friend’s dorm room that said, in what looked like a child’s handwriting: “Dear God, if I give all my love away…can I have a refill?”

Having taken on three new leadership positions on top of an average course load, I desperately needed a refill of God’s love. But I refused to admit it. I convinced myself that the way to bring glory to God was to love others but not myself – a misinterpretation of Jesus’ second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Surely loving myself is selfish, I thought. By the end of that sophomore year, however, God used my InterVarsity community to teach me that, by neglecting to take time for myself and my relationship with Christ, I had been harming my physical and mental health, hindering my ability to love others, and dishonoring God by refusing the love that he was offering me.      

Loving yourself is healthy for you.

Quite simply, humans must take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in order to properly function. So, although it may be “cool” to pull all-nighters and chug energy drinks, pay attention to sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Maintain connections with family, friends, mentors, and a church community. Pray and spend time in God’s Word. One practice that’s helped me in this area is to ask myself some of the “life-giving questions” that Eugene Cho recommends (e.g. “Am I praying?” “Am I writing?” “Am I fishing?”).     

Loving yourself is helpful for others.

In order to tell others the truth that God loves them, you must tell yourself the truth that God loves you. At best, loving others and not yourself can lead to a day of feeling “out of it” while interacting with others. At worst, it can lead to compassion fatigue, defined as “fatigue, emotional distress, or apathy resulting from the constant demands of caring for others.” So in order to have the energy to love others, go ahead and love yourself.   

Loving yourself honors God.

God loves you so much that he made you “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14), sent his son to die for you, and sends the Holy Spirit to live in you. As Adele Ahlberg Calhoun says in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (IVP), “self-love is not about self-centeredness. It’s about caring for the body the Holy Spirit inhabits.” It’s about being good stewards of the life and love that God has given you.

When we ask God, like the poster in my friend’s room did, if we can have a refill when we give all our love away, he is quick to say the most refilling, refreshing “Yes!” we’ve ever heard.

How do you make time for a “refill” from God? If you don’t, how can you begin?

Julia Powers is an English major at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, serving as a small group leader and as her chapter’s prayer coordinator. 

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