Is loving yourself like loving?

Is loving yourself like loving?

St Basil the Great and Self-Love


Is loving yourself like loving? Love is complicated. When you love yourself, what is the source of that love—the universe, God, or whatever set this crazy life in motion?

I asked this impossible question in my men’s group this morning because I realize my problem is that I don’t love myself. And, as it turns out, it is quite common for men not to love themselves. Some despise, or worse.

Is it our “natural state” to love and feel loved? Because I exist, as the saying goes, I am worthy of love. But is it true? Just because you are alive and here right now, you are worthy of love? And equally as important, you love yourself.

Let’s take a turn with St. Basil the Great and find out if loving yourself is even a little bit like loving.


St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great is just about what I needed to hear today. Is he Italian? The original Pesto recipe?

As it turns out, in the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea is a well-known bishop and friend of politicians. He is important in early catholic doctrine as he established communal monasticism, which is “guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labor.”

I just thought his name was funny and needed comment. But my good friend Doug decided to quote him when I was waxing on about the inability of men to love themselves. Why isn’t it easy to love ourselves because God does?

Because it is natural to feel what you are used to feeling. How you feel when young is like water around a fish—you just don’t notice it.

Instead of deciding, you do what you have done before. It’s like an unconditional inertia that stops you from acting. From being. Choosing to love yourself or not. Why not choose life, happiness, and love yourself?


 “You were unfair to as many people as you could have helped and you did not.” ~St Basil the Great


How to Love Yourself by St. Basil the Great

The quote from St. Basil the Great is long but starts with this:

The ability to love is within each of us.

Love of God is not something that we can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same, perhaps even more so, with our love for God:  it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.


I loved that part of the quote.

We did not learn from someone else how to want to live. It just happened. We are here, so we are loved.

Just like no one can teach you how to love yourself. You just have to. Even Decide to. The ability and need to love are in us as soon as we are conceived.

This has to be the case, and once you see it, you cannot help but buy-in.

Well, that’s what I got out of the first part of the quote. It helps me buy into the idea that you can decide to be spiritual, religious, or have a “bad” history of doing something wrong in the past. And if you have to choose, you might as well choose wisely.

The rest of the Great St. Basil’s quote is below.


The Rest of St. Basil

Skipping a bit, he says we can answer the call to do what we are supposed to—no need to be angry or resentful. If we get it right, we are happy; if not, shame follows.

And so that sounds about right to me. We can do what we need to do if we know what is at stake. We can and should do what it takes to move from shame to happiness. Or at least something like contentment on the way to fulfillment.

It seems like he is saying just do it because you can. Because you are here, you can decide to be happy!


What About Self-Love?

Basil says we can say the same thing about love. We are commanded to love God, and therefore we can love. So it is in us to be madly in love with ourselves because we are just fine with who we are.

An absurd notion, but it is a pleasure and a dream to be me.

As for proof, you just need to learn it for yourself. It cannot be taught.

And mightily, you cannot trust anyone either. So you have to learn to discover it yourself. Listen to your authentic self; even though you might doubt the message, it feels true emotionally.


The End of the Quote

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and satisfying than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love:  I am wounded by love? The radiance of the divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.


I will let you decide what that means to you.

I am happy that I can now decide what to do and who I am. How exciting is that? The radiance of divine beauty is beyond words’ power to describe.

For those of us wounded early in life by lack of self-love and those who feel the wound as shame, this is an important question: How can I love myself?

It is an easy choice: either your standards are too high, or you decide it is an easy choice to love yourself. Why would you choose differently if it is our natural state to love ourselves? Or, if you are religious, God loves you, why are your standards higher than His?

Fundamentally self-love is loving. You cannot love others if you don’t love yourself.

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