How Do I Love? Let Me Count the Ways
A healthy, open heart—one that is nurtured and protected— is the key to living out the Greatest Commandment to love God and love others. We are not commanded to love ourselves, because when Christ says to love your neighbor “as yourself,” He assumes that you are already doing that job. He created us to love ourselves, but many of us fail miserably. Learning to take care of your heart begins with how you perceive your own value and worth.
Recognize your own value.
You recognize your own value when you perceive and treat yourself like an incredible gift from God. Each of us has immeasurable value because we are unique, divine creations. If you believe that you are a priceless treasure, your life—and the lives around you—will be better for it. Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Matthew 6:21).
When you do not value yourself, your heart remains closed against your own worth, which hinders your relationships with God and others. Ask yourself these questions: Do you think of yourself as valuable? Do you like yourself? Do you accept yourself? Do you forgive yourself? How do you treat yourself? Do you speak to yourself harshly or kindly?
The reason these questions are so critical is that Scripture says we are to love others like we love ourselves. If you don’t even like yourself, how can you possibly love another?
Accept and believe sincere compliments and affirmations. It’s okay to receive when others praise you.
When you consider yourself a treasure, your heart will follow—and so will your words and actions. Conversely, if you consider yourself a piece of junk (or worse), your heart, words and actions will demonstrate that fact. When you do not value your uniqueness, when you do not see yourself as God’s priceless work of art, hardness of the heart sets in. And we already know that hardening of the heart is the kiss of death to relationships. Again, a closed heart disconnects us from relationships with God, others and ourselves.
If you ever doubt your value, then consider in the following verses how your heavenly Father describes you:
- You may not know me, but I know everything about you. (Ps. 139:1)
- You were made in my image. (Gen. 1:27)
- In me you live and move and have your being. (Acts 17:28)
- You are my offspring. (Acts 17:28)
- I knew you even before you were conceived. (Jer. 1:4-5)
- I chose you when I planned creation. (Eph. 1:11-12)
- You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. (Ps. 139:16)
- I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26)
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139:14)
- I knit you together in your mother’s womb. (Ps. 139:13)
- I brought you forth on the day you were born. (Ps. 71:6)
- You are my treasured possession. (Ex. 19:5)
In order to take care of your heart properly, it’s critical that you get your sense of value from the Lord. His view is the most accurate, never portraying you better than you should appear, but always revealing the true beauty inside you. This is exactly what the Scriptures say, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Christ sees us as we really are.
In his bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren lays out this description of how God views you:
You are not an accident. Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature... Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. He thought of you first... He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it. He also determined the natural talents you would possess and the uniqueness of your personality. . . . Most amazing, God decided how you would be born. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you. It doesn’t matter whether your parents were good, bad, or indifferent. God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom “you” he had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you... God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates... God was thinking of you even before he made the world...This is how much God loves and values you!
In order to capture this God’s-eye view, we need to heed the advice of the apostle Paul: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” (Eph. 1:18). We need our hearts to see what God sees when He looks at us.
How do you see yourself? As precious? Priceless? Do you honor yourself? Honor is a way of accurately seeing the immense value of someone made in God’s image. God created you as a one-of-a-kind, an individual with unique gifts and personality. He sees each of us as precious and valuable. When you catch a glimpse of how God sees you, you are protecting and caring for your heart. When you recognize and affirm your own value, you create a safe environment that encourages your relationships to grow.
Marci thought she would never be useful to God again after she divorced her husband and remarried. She saw herself as a spiritual outcast, a “scarlet” woman because she had left her marriage and her two teenage sons.
“It took years before the turning point came and my heart really began to heal,” Marci shares. “I remember one thing that really was a breakthrough for me in healing my heart. We had joined a small group of very nice people, but we were the quiet ones in the group. We really didn’t talk much. One week, I shared some of our story of our divorces. Later, one of the women said to the group, ‘It’s obvious that God is not done with Marci yet.’ You can’t imagine how much that meant to me. It gave me hope.”
Marci could not affirm her own value because she no longer recognized it. But she is a person God sees as having limitless value. You are, too. God created you to be worthy of greatest honor. Remember that before you can be safe with yourself, you must recognize and embrace your own value. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
“I thought God would never let me teach again, that He could no longer use me,” Marci says. “I was divorced, I left my family, and I wasn’t doing well in my second marriage at that time. I felt like I had no value. Then someone on staff at my new church helped restore my heart. He asked me how I introduced myself to people. He asked me if I said, ‘Hi, I’m Marci. I’m divorced. I have five kids.’ He made me examine how I presented myself, then said that the truth was that none of the descriptions I used really mattered. ‘What does matter is that you are a child of God, and that’s who you really are,’ he said. I then started hearing other truths in worship songs, truths like the fact that God has called me by name and that He calls me friend. God used different things to start giving me hope and heal my heart.”