A Prayer for When I Don’t Love Myself
By Rev. Kyle Norman
"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." - Luke 6:35-36
Henri Nouwen once wrote that the biggest danger to our spiritual lives is our own self-rejection, the tendency to look in the mirror and take apart everything we see. It’s easy to do. After all, we live in a world of comparison, self-promotion, and image management. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages declaring what we should do, where we should go, or how we should look. Amid such a deluge, the gentle voice of the Lord, calling us his own and declaring our belovedness, can so easily get lost.
In those times when we do not love ourselves, how might we respond? Jesus offers a simple way. He calls us to love. “Love your enemies,” he says, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). These words are a helpful guide for how we might treat ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I am often my own worst enemy. Far too often, my true enemy lies within myself. I voice my own rejection; I speak things about myself that are not true; I criticize and judge myself worse than anyone else. I mistreat myself and choose courses of action that lead me farther from the life Jesus longs for me.
It seems to me that if the call of Jesus is to love our enemy, then this must be a call to love ourselves.
Loving ourselves is choosing to see ourselves as loved by God, no matter what. We silence our inner enemy that nitpicks over the littlest of things. The words of Jesus call us to claim God’s love even when we feel we are at our worst. God’s love for us is not a feeling, it is a fact, a truth we claim boldly and relentlessly. Despite what we may see staring back at us in the mirror, we are made in God’s image; we are acceptable to the Lord. Can we choose to believe this?
Loving ourselves means we do good things for ourselves. We are to be the recipient of care, kindness, and compassion. As children of God, we do not deserve to be rejected, dismissed, or hurt. Our health and well-being are important to the Lord. What might it look like for you to take time for rest, recuperation, or healing? How might you cultivate times of joy, delight, and happiness?
Additionally, to love ourselves, we must speak well about ourselves. We bless instead of curse. Cursing is the voice of judgment and unlove. We curse ourselves when we speak words of ridicule or condemnation, tearing ourselves down verbally; To bless, however, is to say something good, to uplift and encourage, to offer words of support and care. What good thing can you speak about yourself?
Finally, loving ourselves means that we hold ourselves in prayer. We pray for our acceptance of grace, mercy, and divine love. In prayer, we open ourselves to the presence of the Lord, who comes to us as we are. Yes, we acknowledge those places where we need help, transformation, and healing, but in prayer, we recognize that the power of God is always greater than our sins or limitations. To pray for ourselves is to place ourselves before the Spirit of God.
Are you struggling to love yourself? Do you wish to step away from self-hate, self-rejection, or self-condemnation? If so, please pray with me.
Gracious and Loving God,
I know that your word declares that I am made in your image. You call me your child and speak words of ceaseless grace and eternal mercy. But I have a hard time accepting these truths for myself. When I look at myself, I see only my faults, my insufficiencies, and my mistakes. I see a sinner to be condemned rather than a child to be loved. But you, O Lord, do love me. You do extend grace. You do embrace me, even when I cannot embrace myself.
Lord Jesus, open me to this truth in my life. Help me to see who I am in your sight. Bless my eyes to see the qualities and traits that are good and beautiful within me, traits that point to your handiwork. I pray that you infuse these gifts with your Spirit so that these heavenly qualities may grow within me. Release my tongue to declare your goodness revealed in my life. Give me words that help articulate who I am in you. Help me claim my belovedness when I am tempted to deny it. Open my mouth in praise when I am tempted to speak words of rejection.
Finally, Lord Jesus Christ, lead me into times of rest and healing. When I am threatened with being overworked, burnt out, exhausted, or discouraged, call me away from my busyness to rest in you. Give me the boldness to treat myself well, to work on my own healing, and to be at peace with who I am. Help me to delight in myself as you delight in me.
Heavenly Father, I long to be the person you have created me to be. Help me to express the love that you so lavishly bestow upon my life, and may I respond to your Spirit that continues to transform me in your grace. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Natali_Mis
The Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada. He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others. He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca. He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.
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Originally published Thursday, 09 November 2023.