I will break this up into smaller chunks of writing the best I can. There is much to say, and it would be better as a dialogue, but I want to put this out there because I live in a red state. It is becoming hazardous to love people well in red states. Many churches need to be called to account communally for the abuse in our culture. This is not an individual heart issue; that message has caused people to learn how to hate themselves, and it is time to talk about it.
I am also writing this because I see many posts asking people to write in love. Our hostility is threatening unity. The thing is, people who are writing hateful things really believe they are writing in love.
I want to talk about self-love. This concept is getting talked about for both good and not-so-good right now.
1) There is a difference between self-love and self-absorption.
2) Churches are some of the worst places to learn self-love because they preach a dying-to-self theology that eliminates the self instead of empowering it. You can pick a few verses out and isolate them to make that argument, but not when you look at scripture as a whole. Even Paul changes his tune here. He eventually says our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12).
This message of “it is not about you, it is about what God wants” or telling helpers: teachers, healthcare workers, pastors, or anyone working on the frontlines of our society, to take abuse because they exist to help others, not themselves, is literally killing people. It is killing them professionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. They become disconnected from themselves and will be ripe for an attack because they are exhausted. And society expects them not to resist abuse. Political leaders too. Why would anyone good run in an environment like this?! Abuse is not okay for anybody. No BODY can absorb abuse. That is not a demand of love or justice.
Learning how to love yourself well is essential to know when you are not being loved well. It will give you the strength to stand up to the powers and principalities who want to define you as anything other than love.
Self-love is a rootedness in knowing your worth no matter what anyone else says. If you need to hear a hard truth, you will know. You will want to know because you will not feel life and will strive to get back towards growth. Once you have felt love, you will want to get back there. But when an accusation is false or just plain cruel, you will not absorb it because you know who you are. You are rooted in love, and hate has no place in you.
That is not self-absorption. That is love in its purest form. I trust a person who loves themself most of all.
Right now, too many people cannot distinguish between love and hate. Love is being taught as something selfish, and abuse is just discipline to make us better and stronger.
But it hasn’t. We are emotionally stunted and the things that make us the most human are being criminalized, and disconnection is rewarded. That is how authoritarianism thrives.
This is why I am writing about friendship. That is how we change the course we are on. This includes friendship with the earth and all creation.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic.
Self-love is power with love. It is bigger than ourselves.
Unlike trickle-down economics which does not trickle down at all, love cannot be held back. Love trickles out of a person who carries love because love cannot be possessed or contained.