In Evangelical circles, self-love is an idea and practice often viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility, most often being equated with selfishness. Little distinction is made between an unhealthy self-focus and a possibly healthy, biblical self-love. In Christian circles, the biblical and evidential need for a healthy self-concept is often addressed by a redirection towards a focus on God and our redeemed, or new self “in Christ” (Galatians 3:26-38). But this may be a misdirection rather than a helpful response.
In this paper, I present a theology of healthy self-love based on the two “greatest commandments” of love for God and love for others.
Second, I present three theological models for understanding self-love; the continuum, foundational, and human development models. Included in the latter is an original “five selves” developmental model for understanding the importance and role of loving our created self, a.k.a. healthy self-love.
Lastly, I address objections, including the application and interpretation of the principles of self-denial, sin’s corruption of the created self, distinguishing healthy and unhealthy self-love, God’s place in restoring our attitude towards self, and the popularity of personality tests and other tools of self-understanding.