The Culture of Self-Love & the Call to Selflessness

Disclaimer: This article quotes Demi Lovato's new song titled I Love Me which has explicit words. NET Canada does not endorse or condone the use of explicit words. This song is only being used to exemplify and explain the culture of self-love.

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Up until recently self-love was seen as vanity, egotism and selfishness. We live in an era where self-love is encouraged and everywhere. Messages to love who we are, as we are. As Catholics, we are constantly asked to look outward, for the care of our neighbour, to place others before ourselves. It almost seems like these two views are diametrically opposed. So how do we as Catholics reconcile the culture of self-love and God's call to selflessness?

First, let's look at what brought up this culture of self-love. Demi Lovato's new song, I Love Me, starts off with the first line:

"Flipping through all of these magazines, telling me who I'm supposed to be. Way too good at camouflage. Can't see what I am, I just see what I'm not."

The media and entertainment industry have been telling us that we need to look a certain way, act a certain way to be "cool", "famous", and "liked". It is these messages of that we are not good enough, that the way that we are right now is not enough for us to be liked or loved. It is a culture of comparison and to combat it, the culture of self-love has rose.

As Catholics though, we hear more of messages to love others. Jesus says in Mark 12:30 that the greatest commandment is, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." He then goes on to say that, "the second is this, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." At first glance, it sounds like Jesus is just saying: love God, and then love your neighbour. We can easily interpret this as, put God first, others second, and yourself third, that there is no room in the Catholic life for the culture of self-love. Self-love is selfishness. I don't think that's true at all.

Jesus says, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself". The keywords here being: as yourself. How can we love others if we cannot love ourselves? Demi goes on in her song, "'Cause I'm a black belt when I'm beating up on myself but I'm an expert at giving love to somebody else." We've fallen into the trap of thinking that selflessness means we must forget ourselves completely. That's fair as the word itself implies that, we must lessen the self. However, Jesus is saying that love must first start with ourselves. The measure of how much we love others is parallel to how we treat and love ourself or rather it should be.

I don't think that the culture of self-love contradicts Jesus' call to love our neighbours as ourselves. Yes, we can run into the trap of becoming too self-focused, selfish, or vain, and on the other end we can run into the trap of focusing on others so much that we forget to take care of ourselves, live in a state of comparison, or think that if we love ourselves that we are a bad person. It is in the balance of self-love, and selflessness that Jesus calls us to live in. To carry out the two greatest commandments, we need to understand that God made us, that God loves us, and to love ourselves is good and we must direct that same love to others. This is the true calling for Catholics.

John Lim, NET Staff