As a reminder, it all starts with going to the source of love - God. This requires a commitment to maintaining conscious contact. Whole libraries are stuffed with books on how to do that, so I am not going to discuss that further except to say: figure out how to maintain conscious contact with God or the rest of this is going to be pretty impossible.
Having established the umbrella under which we stand...
34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
~ Matthew 22:34-40 CEB
...we turn our attention to the next move. The next move involves the simile “as you love yourself.” A simile is a form of grammar that we use to compare something we do not know how to do (love your neighbor) with something that is presumed we do understand (love yourself). No offense to Jesus, but my experience teaches me that many of us, including myself, are not very good at understanding this part of the simile, which then makes it impossible to understand the second part.
In fact, the very concept of self-love freaks me out. Sitting on my desk right this very minute is a mile-high stack of books on narcissism. Narcissism, this concept of ONLY being able to love self, is a big problem in the world today. In the U.S. we have become accustomed to “doing your own thing” and “win at all costs”. We’ve created a culture that encourages individualism to the detriment of building and sustaining community. Narcissism is what my brain rushes to when I think about self-love, but my brain is confused.
Loving/respecting yourself means taking responsibility for yourself. It is that capacity to know that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. We own the work of developing an appropriate and specific plan for self-care. We pay our own bills. We do not ask others to do for us what we are created to do for ourselves. This builds strong bodies and sound minds. THEN and ONLY THEN do we develop the capacity to love others. Without decent self-respect and a commitment to live by the core values we consciously choose for ourselves, our relationships will be nothing more than negotiations and manipulative attempts to receive from others what we are intended to derive from our own personal work of becoming decent human beings; to practice the Matthew passage, we must start and continue on a daily basis the discipline of building a life that we respect. Are you taking care of that?