“The greatest love of all is easy to achieve; learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all” – at first glance, this seems like a quotable quote from a famous personality. But when you copy and paste this phrase and look it up on your internet browser, your results would most likely be the famous lyrics of the late Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All”. A timeless classic love song and an iconic legacy by someone many consider as one of the greatest singers in history. In the area of human love and relationships, this song line definitely has a point.
Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All” can be interpreted in many ways and is also applicable in our lives in more ways than one. For some, it is a song of self-empowerment, for some it is a song of maturity, for others a song of realization, etc. However we look at the song, the song line I introduced encompasses the whole song’s message. We need to love ourselves first before we love someone else
Loving ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean being selfish or narcissistic. Nature and nurture have taught us to first equip ourselves with the necessary emotional tools we will need in life, especially love. Loving oneself is fundamental in building our characters, our values and our individual personalities. Even the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of our lives depend on our love for ourselves.
We need to be physically fit by providing our bodies nourishment and giving what our bodies essentially need. We also need to keep ourselves from harm and we should not harm ourselves in any way. We have to personally know our strengths and weaknesses, our faults, our dreams and our ambitions. When we know our true selves without reservation, when we are willing to work on certain areas in our selves that need improvement, and willing to provide our personal needs, we have truly loved ourselves.
Loving ourselves grants us confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, humility, empathy, compassion and generosity. When we love ourselves we practice self-restraint so as not to go overboard and become selfish or narcissistic. This practice translates into self-restraint when loving others. We need not “love” others to the point of neglecting or degrading ourselves. The values of self-respect and self-esteem now come to play when we love others.
Humility stems from our knowing of our true selves, the good, the bad and the ugly. When wee see good qualities in people, we compliment them; and when we see bad qualities, we gently admonish them. When it’s the other way around, we should be quick to return compliments when we are complimented, and we should be quick to be thankful to people for pointing out our mistakes. Also, when we know how weak or how strong we are, we feel the struggles and the feelings of other people as if we were in their shoes – this is empathy. To take the next step by giving and helping others we empathize with, we show compassion and generosity. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
The positive aspects of ourselves that we share with others come from self-love. When we are comfortable with loving ourselves, we can be also comfortable loving others. The Christian teachings and biblical stories in the Scriptures have recurring themes of loving your neighbors as like loving yourselves. Loving ourselves is not self-benefitting, but rather our self-love benefits others when we love just as earnestly as we are loving ourselves. Self-love and in turn, love of others are our ways of showing our love for God — by loving ourself and our body as His temple, and by loving the least of our brethren.