“How you care for yourself is how you will care for others.”

Mark 12:31 says, “Love others as well as you love yourself.” (Msg.)

Loving your neighbor as yourself is found eight times in the Bible. Not once. Not twice. Eight times. Loving your neighbor as yourself is so important to God that He not only repeats Himself, He makes it a command. And not just one in a list of many commands. Jesus coupled the command to love your neighbor as yourself with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Taking care of your own heart is how you protect your relationship with God and everyone else, especially those close to you. It’s not selfishness. It’s how you begin to love. The command in our text is not to love others as we love God, but how we love ourselves. We must care for our own heart before we are ready to love the heart of another.

When it comes to the whole subject of loving others, you must understand and believe that how you handle your own heart issues is how you will handle the heart issues of others. If you ignore and dismiss your own heart, you will ignore and dismiss theirs. If you expect perfection of yourself, you will expect it of others. If you manage your emotions with efficiency and performance, that is the pressure you will apply to the performance of others.

People who say, “I have lots of grace for others, I’m just hard on myself.” That’s an excuse that never works in the end. You will weary early when you try to be merciful toward others while you neglect or beat up yourself. When mature friends see that, rest assured they believe, at some point, you will treat them the same.

What can you bring to others if your heart is empty, dried up and discouraged? Love is the point, not performance. You can only fake love for so long, for yourself and for those around you. You can’t love without your heart. You can’t love well unless your heart is well. Christian maturity is when we love ourselves for God’s sake and the sake of others.

To love your neighbor as yourself as commanded, you must measure correctly. The measurement within this command is—as yourself. To love your neighbor as yourself you need to love yourself. This is something that often gets misunderstood in the body of Christ. It gets mixed up with dying to self and denying self as if we need to destroy our self. This is not true.

Living a sacrificial life does not mean ignoring your own heart issues, but loving others the way you take care of yourself. God cares very much for the desires of your heart because they matter to Him. Do they matter to you? If they don’t, it won’t be long before the heart desires of others no longer matter to you and relationships suffer.