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Self-Love: The Death of Healthy Relationships

Author: Jordan G Estabrook

The idea of self-love is a prominent idea that is taught and practiced by most of this generation, both on the political left and right.

Words have meaning, and “self-love” has taken on many different definitions. I have found most of them, said in many more words of course, equal this:

Self-obsession, self-worship and narcissism.

It is a deep and overactive focus on oneself to the point of destruction. Destruction in this case looks like a coffin: you worship yourself, but no one seems to love you, and so you are left looking into your phone camera in a figurative coffin, dark, alone, small and suffocating.

Those who are religious also have difficulty fighting this cultural idea. It’s even made its way into Christianity, with many Christian influencers and pastors preaching “self-love.”

It’s a poison, and I’ll explain why.

First, we need to back up and ask ourselves what a lasting relationship looks like. Talk to anyone who’s been healthily married for any length of time. They will say, in many more words of course, that the key is this:

Sacrifice, service and communication.

Now this comes up against this idea of self-obsession. If you’re obsessed with yourself, it is extremely difficult to sacrifice in any meaningful way. The relationship will always be viewed as a way for them to serve you.

And if you do choose to serve, it’s completely dependent on whether or not they’re meeting your needs at that particular time. Over time, both partners will build up a level of resentment towards the other: one because they don’t feel they’re being served, they’re the one always sacrificing and feel underappreciated, and the other because their partner isn’t serving enough or in the right way.

And the self-obsessed person is off to the next, convinced that they just need to find the right one to fit all their needs.

I’m not neglecting the idea of dating and marrying people with good character, standards and qualities. What I am suggesting is that any person who has and practices his or her good qualities will be fundamentally sinful in nature.

They will be imperfect, covered in flaws and fighting their own selfishness. They will let you down. They will disappoint you. They’ll make you angry. They’ll do things you don’t understand.

Basically, they’ll be just like you.

Because you are flawed. You have bad habits. You’ll disappoint, anger and sadden your partner. You’re not as good as you think you are. Self-obsession blinds us to our own character flaws.

Now, am I suggesting that you practice self-hate? Of course not. I would never advocate for such a horrible thing. When I think of self-love, I’m often reminded of C.S Lewis in Mere Christianity, an author I love and his book I’ve read multiple times, and how he describes the dynamic of loving oneself and hating the sin in his own life:

“For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated these things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

Loving yourself doesn’t mean overlooking your flaws and obsessing over all your great qualities, whether it be your character, talents or physical appearance. You should love the self, but hate the sin that’s corrupted it, and work to fix it.

You should value someone who sacrifices and humbles themselves because those are the qualities you value in yourself. It’s difficult to do that when you’re too busy praising yourself.

Self-obsession comes naturally. Self-sacrifice and humility are the harder choice that leads to a more fulfilling life and relationship. I'll leave you with one last thought from Lewis:

“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of Resident Skeptics.

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