Like I said, I break this commandment all the time. Most of us, even the best intentioned, do so daily. So, what is this divine guideline that we all universally struggle with? I bet you've heard it, but I'm also betting that it blew right passed you. That has nothing to do with your intelligence, mind you, so don't start throwing things my way (you'd just break your screen). It has to do with reading between the lines, or in this case reading between the words spoken by the very Jesus we honored over Easter.
"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
-Mathew 22: 35-40
Now, if you're like me, the first fifty times you heard or read these scriptures your mind focused on the number 2. The Lord even says it, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." But he actually mentions a third commandment in the text which is the very one I want to focus on here.
Did you miss it? Here, read it again. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." See it now? Most people focus on the "love thy neighbor" portion of Christ's words and they do a darn good job of striving to be truly Christlike to those around them. They imprint, nay carve the Lord's direction to "love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13: 34) on their heart and they joy in following it. On the flip-side, however, they have a hay-day breaking the other part of the commandment this scripture mentions. It doesn't just say to love our neighbors, it says to love them as we love ourselves.
Love ourselves? What? The average Christian works relentless to love others, to serve them without question, to stop criticizing others and judging them for their mistakes and to life them up when they are feeling down. But when it comes to themselves, are they as kind, generous, forgiving, non-judgmental and loving? What do they say to themselves when they feel undesirable, or make a mistake or lose their temper or struggle with their faith or get angry with God or fail to live up to one of the thousands of guidelines that the Gospel gives to us? How do they react when they simply fall short or make a poor choice or somehow don't measure up to society's expectations?
That's the problem right there. This is the commandment (half-commandment?) that so many of us struggle with. We can reach down into the darkest pit of sin to share our light and our love with a needy soul, but when we are the ones who trip and fall we are the first to reach back and push ourselves into the mud. That may not logically make sense, but it sure is the truth. If someone were to bring us before the Savior at our times of grave sin like they did the women taken in adultery (John 8:3-11), I'm not so sure that we wouldn't be the first ones to cast a stone at ourselves.
Of this mentality, I cannot help but wonder how much our Savior's great heart aches at the way we judge (his job, remember, not ours) ourselves. When we compare our weaknesses to others' strengths, when we diminish our talents because others seem to shine a tad brighter, when we silence our own voice because someone else sounds more eloquent, we do more than just wound an already wounded Jesus; we forget that he thought we were good enough/worth enough to suffer for in Gethsemane and to give his life for on the cross.
Believe me, I get it. Whether it be messages from the media, through advertising, the "demands" of our cultures or just the quiet insecurities that we fight against on a very private battlefield, the temptation (and that's just what it is, a temptation) to beat ourselves up for not measuring up is something that every Christian deals with. So when you struggle with that struggle, just know that it is a universal struggle. You're not alone in it.
You were meant for beautiful things and God loves you just the way you are. So whenever the thought comes into your head or your heart that you aren't good smart/worthy/beautiful/wealthy/confident/etc. enough, I want you to simply follow the counsel given by President Dieter F. Uchdorf and "stop it!" Silence the bully/judge/critic in your head. Better yet, toss him/her our on their derriere and wish them a safe journey; they are no longer welcome in your mind or heart.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once wrote, "None of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us-- Insecurities, anxieties, poor self-image, and all. He doesn't measure our talents or our looks; He doesn't measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other."
So, how much should we love ourselves? I mean, if we love ourselves too much, isn't that narcissistic? Well, that depends on how many selfies you post each week (just kidding....not really). But the truth is, as children of God who loves us and wants us to succeed and has promised to help us do so, we are of tremendous worth and perhaps the reason we "sin" when we think negatively about ourselves is that we are believing a lie (Satan or sometimes society's judgement of our value) instead of what God himself has said about us: "
Perhaps the greatest reminder of your value and of God's love for you is the very act we celebrated at Easter: the resurrection, "For God so loved [you], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him (especially you) should not perish (no matter what demons you're facing), but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
I think that if we could all, in some way, go back in time to that sacred night on a Jerusalem hillside over 2,000 years ago, kneel down beside the Savior amidst the olive trees and watch the suffering he went through, and at some point, fighting through our own tears, ask him, "Why are you doing this? I'm not worth it. I'm a mess. I'm too much this, too much that and not enough of everything I should be. I'm not saveable." I imagine that in some way, in words beyond what I could possibly tell, Jesus would look upon us with the love that we should give ourselves every day and say, "Yes, you are. You are all that, but you are so much more to me and to our Father in Heaven. You are worth it."
Love thy neighbor as thyself. Love...thyself.