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?
I asked this impossible question in my men’s group this morning because I realized my problem is a lack of self-love. As it turns out, it is 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, you are worthy of love? And equally as important, you love yourself.
Let’s learn with St. Basil the Great and find out if loving yourself is even a little 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 was 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. My good friend quoted him in response to my waxing on about the inability of men to love themselves. His point: Why isn’t it easy to love ourselves because God does?
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 must. Even Decide to. The ability and need to love are in us as soon as we are conceived.
This has to be the case; once you see it, you cannot help but buy-in. If you have to choose, you might as well choose wisely.
What About Self-Love?
St Basil the Great says we can say the same thing about self-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.
It is an absurd notion, but it is a pleasure and a dream to be me.
As for proof, you need to learn it for yourself. It cannot be taught.
Don’t trust anyone to teach self-love to you; learn to discover it yourself. Listen to your authentic self that feels true.
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 the power of words to describe.
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? 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.