I was 38 weeks pregnant. My co-workers and I were working on a really important project near the end of the work day, and my boss had asked me to write part of the proposal. I love writing. It’s my thing.
But I was huge. And tired. And I wanted to go home to my bed. So I did my part as best I could and left by 7 p.m., only to arrive the next morning and realize my peers had never gone home. The project was successful, much in part to my team’s willingness to sacrifice sleep.
I get it—there’s a time and place for all-nighters. If I hadn’t been days away from a pretty important all-nighter of my own, I probably would have stayed to help. But I had to wonder: can we really live out our calling while we’re running on fumes? Can we love others well when we don’t know how to love ourselves?
As 20- and 30-somethings, many of us have been told we lack the work ethic and dedication of the previous generation. So we overcompensate, and we hustle hard. But in the midst of the hustle, we may be missing a crucial component of Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
So often, under the guise of “loving others,” I forget how to love myself, and that’s a problem. Maybe even a matter of life and death.
What if the Golden Rule isn’t so much about doing, but overflowing? To offer the world the love it desperately needs, to show a broken generation the transforming love of Jesus we proclaim, we need to experience it. We need to have something to actually give, and that starts with a personal encounter of God’s love.
Curious about the state of your self-love tank? Here are a few indicators you could use a refill:
You Don’t Take Your Own Advice
As a writing coach and mentor, one of my favorite writing prompts is this: Write a letter to someone else going through something difficult you are also facing. What would you tell them?
I love tricking my clients into taking their own advice, because I know how it works: it’s so easy to speak truth to others, but difficult to accept it ourselves. We think God’s grace is for everyone but us, but we couldn’t be more wrong. If we starve ourselves of truth in the name of staying focused on others, how will we know what to give them? It’s vital we taste grace for ourselves before helping others identify it in their lives.
You Live Like You Have Something to Prove
I listened to my nine-month-pregnant body the night my co-workers stayed late in the office, which was difficult, because I wanted to show off my wordsmith skills. I knew I’d be a better employee the next day on a full night’s sleep, but deep down, I felt like I had something to prove, like my work defined my worth.
Sometimes, it’s more fruitful to make the more difficult choice in the moment—dying to ourselves and our desire to get ahead—to do the best work. And sometimes, taking ourselves out of the race is the best example we can give to a hustle-hard world.
You Don’t Stop Running Until You Crash
Willingness to rest, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, is a sign we know who we are in Jesus. We can rest because we don’t have anything to prove to anyone about our identity—Jesus already did that.
When we hustle to the point of exhaustion, we grow too tired to do the work of God’s Kingdom, and worse, we lose our sense of the abundant life Jesus came to secure. How can we love others well when we’re stripped of our joy? What will we have to offer anyone when all our resources have run dry?
Rest is a significant part of loving ourselves well so we can go out and overflow the Gospel.
You Feel Guilty Asking for Help
I have a friend who was raised by a single mom, and she recently shared with me that she has a difficult time asking anyone for help, even when things get really rough for her. Many of us are the same way, trying to do it all on our own to avoid being a burden.
God calls us to be His body on earth—His living, moving heart, hands and feet. When we refuse to allow others to serve us, we strip them of the joy of using their gifts, essentially keeping them from living out the Golden Rule.
Maybe it’s time to turn things upside down and love others by letting them love us.
You Cringe at the Idea of God’s Love for You
When the song “How He Loves” first came out, I’m embarrassed to admit I totally made fun of it, because the idea of being that loved by God seemed ridiculous—even selfish. So I laughed off the lyrics my friends sang so passionately, trying to stay focused on the “real” Gospel of sharing God’s love with others.
I thought it would be selfish to celebrate God’s love for me, but it turns out it was more selfish not to. Knowing we’re loved by God empowers us to go out and do the good works He’s called us to with joy.
Celebrating His delight in us—living in light of who we are as beloved children—starts with loving ourselves how He loves us.