Sunday, November 22, 2015

Love Thy Selfie

by Jerry Sheppard

"For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy." (2 Timothy 3:2, ESV)

It is no secret that "self love" is on the rise today. So much so that the present generation is three times more "self-centered" than the previous generations. It is one thing to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31, ESV), but it is quite another thing when you have an unhealthy view of yourself. For another Scripture says, "I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he [or she] ought to think" (Rom. 12:3, NASB). It is hard to focus on others if our focus is too much on ourselves. The Apostle Paul instructs, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil. 2:3-4, NASB).

At present, there is much in music, the social media, magazines, movies, and so on, in our society that promotes the "self" life. Modern technology is boasted to help make our lives easier, but instead it has fed our egos and inflated our self-esteem in such a way that we think too highly of ourselves. Many people from various age groups have become narcissistic, self-entitled, and privileged. Such people get easily offended if you don't feed into their over-inflated perception of themselves. Such social websites as Facebook is chock-full of profiles of young people who have numerous "selfie" photos. It's like they are obsessed with themselves and addicted to the attention they get from the number of "Likes" and complimenting comments they get.

I have personally come across this type of behaviour myself in my interactions with some women on Facebook. Look, I'm not against people taking pictures of themselves, but when you see their photo page littered with selfies, or their conversations with you peppered with little selfie shots, then it's obvious there is a deep underlying problem in their life. It's a cry for attention, insecurity, or, as mentioned earlier, an unhealthy obsession with one's self. For example, one 40-something lady on Facebook titled her photo section, "LOVE THY SELFIE." She had over 200+ selfies. Or as one guest, Iyanla Vanzant, on Oprah Winfrey put it, "It is Self-full to put yourself first." This lady on Oprah's show was exalting self as an actual virtue! Imagine that! Even more disturbing was when she cited this quote from A Course on Miracles: "When you give to others to the degree that you sacrifice yourself, you make the other person a thief." Then she concluded, "They are stealing from you what you need, and they don't even know it." This of course is in complete opposition to Jesus' words, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, NASB). Again, Jesus says, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 16:25, NASB). Noted author, Ayn Rand, in his very telling book, The Virtue of Selfishness, made this self-exalting statement: "To hold one's own life as one's ultimate value, and one's own happiness as one's highest purpose, are two aspects of the same achievement." With such comments, is it any wonder people today are so self-centered and narcissistic? Whether people realize it or not, this unhealthy act of self-love is a form of "self" worship. It is idolatry (see Ex. 20:3-5). Actually, the practice of self-love and the worship of self is known among Satanists as one of their most revered practices.

The wonderful news is, it doesn't have to be that way. You don't need to post a hundred selfies to get validation from others. Put away your video cameras, cell phones, iPhones, and other computerized gadgets and go out and talk to people; really make an effort to socialize with people without whipping out your cell phone every few minutes to check your messages and updates. Really make an effort to focus your interest on other people, and never seek validation from others. If you really want validation from other people, then give them a reason to do so by focusing your attention on them and not yourself. Put your focus on Christ, and not yourself; put your focus on your neighbor, and not yourself. Make this a daily habit, and soon you will reap the positive benefits from it. I challenge you with this thought provoking quote from Jim Elliot: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose."

I came across this quote from a friend on Facebook. The quote reads:

"So many years of education, yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves, and why it's so important." -Spirit Science.

I would not say education is the problem, but rather the issue is, they don't know how to love themselves appropriately. For most people don't have a problem loving themselves. People are usually full of self-love, so much so that many are narcissistic, in love with themselves. It is a self-centered kind of love that fails to reach beyond one's self in love towards others. For the Scripture says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31, ESV). You see, it is too much self-love that is the real problem here, not a lack of it. People need to be taught to not love themselves too much to the exclusion of others. Why is this so important? Because without a healthy balance between loving our self properly and loving others appropriately, we get off balance and fall victim to such inappropriate behaviours as self-entitlement and narcissism.

Notice the host of sinful problems that follow right after Paul's phrase, "For people will be lovers of self." The list goes beyond just the verse in today's text. The complete list reads as follows: "lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," (2 Tim. 3:3-4, ESV). This of course is akin to the works of the flesh (see Gal. 5:19-21). If focusing on loving our self amounts to producing such bad fruit that is mentioned in the list of bad behaviours by Paul in the verses above, I will gladly pass. I would rather have the fruits of the Spirit produced in my life, which are as follows: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23, ESV). You see, as I stated earlier, it is not a lack of loving our self that is the real problem here, but rather it is "self-love" that is at the root of our problem. If we are to be taught how to love, it should be in how to love others. For we selfishly love ourselves naturally. With that said, I concluded with Jesus' words here: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, ESV).