The year was 1985 and I remember most of the words to the song, though I didn’t understand what they meant until recently. It started like this:
I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. . .
It sounded like a great anthem. I sang along, never realizing what the chorus was actually saying.
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me.
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.
Self-love, Whitney told us, was the greatest love of all.
Since the late 1960s, our culture has embraced this anthem. Self-love themes dominated children’s shows like Sesame Street. Lack of self-esteem became the most popular answer to why anyone struggled with emotional or psychological issues. More self love, it was believed, would make us a kinder, gentler people.
But, I wonder if self-love didn’t have the opposite impact. Instead of serving as a solid foundation from which to love and care for others, has self-love actually turned us inward?
Just to make sure I was defining terms correctly, I Googled “self love movement.” Here’s the definition I found on the self-love movement’s website: “Self-Love is the act of putting your own happiness & well-being first, something that is lacking within our current society.”
Putting your own happiness and well-being first is lacking in our current society? Wow! It seems like just the opposite is true.
According to the American Psychological Association, we’re a culture that’s more self-obsessed than ever. High self-esteem, narcissism, and self-focus dominate our culture and continue to trend upwards.
This matters to the Pro Abundant Life movement. If future generations continue to believe that self-first is the path to happiness, we’ve paved their path of destruction.
The Bible tells us that true love is laying down one’s life for a friend (John 15:13). The fallacy that you have to love yourself before you can love others is unbiblical. In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us the greatest commandment after loving God is to love your neighbor as yourself. This is not a commandment to love yourself. Self-love is assumed and the command is to extend the love to those around you. Paul tells us that God loved us and Jesus died for us, while we were still sinners. Our love for others and ourselves flows outward from the love God had for us. When we deny the existence of God and the need of His grace and then try to start from a position of “self-love,” we end up with little more than selfishness and despair.
As people committed to being Pro Abundant Life, we must take a “wise as serpents” approach when it comes to self-love, seeing how self-love feeds an anti-life culture. Pro-abortion advocates stealthily position abortion as an issue of a woman’s ability to care for her own body instead of an issue of caring for someone else (the unborn baby). Self-focus and self-love lead to anti-life decisions because one’s own happiness is prioritized above all else.
The more we remain focused on self, the longer we stay in a prison of despair wondering why we haven’t found happiness yet. Loneliness, depression. and even suicide are the trademarks of a self-focused culture. Life -- abundant life -- comes when we affirm others before self.
Sadly, Whitney Houston demonstrated for us how her “greatest love of all” didn’t satisfy as she hoped. She had deep hurts, but turned inward according to these lyrics from the first verse:
I never found anyone who fulfills my needs. A lonely place to be, and so I learned to depend on me.
Sadly, Houston herself died a tragic death from a drug overdose. Her choice to turn inward appears to have not filled the emptiness she was living with.
As Christians we know the “greatest love” of all is only found in God through Jesus. To build a Pro Abundant Life culture, we must be careful not to let the fallacy of self-love sneak into our hearts.