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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Anne Robertson

Wednesday, February 2

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
—Leviticus 19:18b

For the longest time I thought that the order of things in the universe was God at the top, everybody else next, and me at the bottom. Needless to say, that outlook gave me some self-esteem problems. Then one day I really read this verse.

It doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor and hate yourself.” It doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor more than yourself.” It says, “Love your neighbor AS yourself.” Love of neighbor and love of self are equal in importance.

Only then did I realize that there was a commandment to love myself. It wasn’t an option. I also saw that love of neighbor and love of self serve as a balance for each other. I find that most people are better at one side of that equation than the other. Some tend to focus on others and neglect themselves. Others focus on themselves and neglect others. In my old way of thinking, loving others was right and loving self was wrong.

But when I realized what the verse actually said, I could see that both types of people had it half right. Those who did a good job of loving themselves didn't have to stop that. They didn’t have to love themselves less, they just had to love their neighbors every bit as much. On the other side, I didn’t have to love my neighbor any less, I just had to bring my love of myself up to the same caring level.

It wasn’t easy to learn to love myself, and I’m still not sure that the two things are perfectly in balance, but they’re a heck of a lot closer than they used to be, and I no longer feel so guilty about doing something to care for myself. I am a healthier person, which also makes me better able to care for others.

Help me, Lord, to keep the love of others and the love of myself in balance. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.