Love Thyself: ๐Ÿ’– Happy Valentine’s Day! ๐Ÿ’–โ€” โค๏ธ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

โ€”1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is one thing that unites all of human existence. It can inspire, encourage, and lighten our hearts. It can be the most incredible feeling in the world, but it can also be confusing. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us, โ€œLove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.โ€ When a Pharisee lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded, โ€œYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.โ€ (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus points out that love is the most essential aspect of Christianity.

On this Valentineโ€™s Day, many of us are alone this year. Some are alone because of loss, others because of the circumstance of the pandemic, and like myself, because we have yet to find a partner for life. I have often talked about loving others and how important it is to show love. 1 John 3:18 says, โ€œLittle children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.โ€ John 15:12 tells us, โ€œMy command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.โ€ However, I believe that before we can love others, we must learn to love ourselves. There are two types of loving ourselves. God tells us that it is sinful to love ourselves in a vain, prideful, and arrogant way, thinking we are better than everyone; however, it should be natural to love ourselves and be thankful for what God made. Loving and accepting oneself can come easily to those who grow up in a loving and accepting environment. Still, even those with the most accepting family and friends often find it hard to come to terms with their sexuality. For those of us who grew up in a family and an environment filled with homophobia, it is often challenging to realize and become comfortable with our true selves.

Many, if not most, in the LGBTQ+ community are surrounded by homophobia and less than accepting environments. Those around them often claim to love them, yet they deny us our sexuality as natural. They deny us the ability to love ourselves as God intends for his creation. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and above all, infallible, which He is, then He created us with our nature to love someone of the same sex. He could not have been wrong. God does not make mistakes. What is wrong is when people make us hate ourselves and torture ourselves to hide who we are, forcing us to live a lie. That is the sin. Being our true selves and loving someone of the same sex is not a sin, and I will never believe it is. I did not come to this revelation lightly.

I prayed. I meditated. I studied the scriptures. I know that I have finally come to terms with being the man that God created. When I accepted that God had created me as a gay man and was not a flaw in His creation, I learned to begin loving myself. Since this realization, I have been closer to God and have had a much greater connection to God. All of those voices in my head telling me to hate who and what I was, in actuality was homophobia and hatred fueled by the ignorance of those surrounding me. When we deny ourselves because others tell us that we do not know God, we are dishonoring God. More importantly, the people who put those ideas into our heads are dishonoring God, and they are the ones committing a great sin and doing the greatest harm.

Teaching us to hate our nature instead of loving our nature is incredibly detrimental. Research has found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ youth are significantly higher than among the general population. Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have a higher suicide attempt rate than heterosexual youth. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of LGBTQ+ youth, depending on age and sex groups, have attempted suicide, a rate 1.5-3 times higher than heterosexual youth. The higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts and overall mental health problems among gay teenagers than their heterosexual peers has been attributed to the stigma of being different.

LGBTQ+ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40 percent less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. Nearly 80 percent of youth who completed The Trevor Projectโ€™s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported disclosing their sexual orientation to at least one adult. Among those who told at least one adult, 79 percent had at least one adult who was accepting of them. Over one-quarter of LGBTQ+ youth who did not have at least one accepting adult in their life reported attempting suicide in the past year compared to 17 percent of those with at least one accepting adult. The positive impact of acceptance from at least one adult on suicide attempts is significant.

The harm created by people not accepting and loving the LGBTQ+ community is incredibly detrimental. It teaches us not to love ourselves, and if we cannot love ourselves, then we cannot love others or God. Proverbs 19:8 says, โ€œTo acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.โ€ 1 John 2:9-10 is explicit in what John tells us about loving others, โ€œAnyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.โ€ How can we love others if we are taught to hate ourselves and our nature? As I was researching what the Bible says about love for this post, I came across numerous Christian sites that would say to โ€œlove your neighbor,โ€ but then at the same time give a caveat: love your neighbor, unless they are gay; love your neighbor, unless they are a sinner; love your neighbor unless they are not Christian; etc. It seems that many Christians find numerous excuses not to follow Godโ€™s commandments while simultaneously claiming to follow Godโ€™s commandments. They cannot have it both ways. Jesus gave no caveat when he commanded us to โ€œlove our neighbor.โ€ 

Furthermore, love cannot be superficial. We cannot claim to love our fellow man and give exceptions. Romans 12:9-10 says, โ€œLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.โ€ Philippians 2:3-4 expounds on this, โ€œDo nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.โ€ If we cannot come to terms with ourselves, then it will be impossible to love others. We must show concern for one another above the circumstances and ourselves. We must demonstrate care for others without counting the cost to us, but we also must take care of ourselves. If we neglect ourselves, our self-worth, and our very identity, we will not be healthy enough to show that love to others.

When dealing with Christian love, we must relate everything to Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection. In the life and death of Christ, we see in a new way for what Godโ€™s love is and for what manโ€™s love for God, for others, and for ourselves should be. Through faith living in us, we are enabled to follow His example of love unconditionally. Whether you have someone with you today to show your love, make sure that you show yourself love as well.

Remember as RuPaul says at the end of every Drag Race, โ€œIf you canโ€™t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?โ€  Can I get an Amen?

On a brighter note, I got exactly one Valentineโ€™s Day card this year, and it was from my friend Susan. It is so cute ๐Ÿ’–:

๐Ÿ’–โ€”โค๏ธ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œโ€”๐Ÿ’–

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my lifeโ€ฆnot anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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