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Søren Kierkegaard on Self, Love, and Self-love (Text in Description)

Uploaded 10/8/2020, approx. 5 minute read

I want to read to you something written by Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish religious philosopher.

Danish philosopher Kierkegaard is the founder of modern existentialism.

He wrote a lot about Christianity, morality, ethics, religion, and one of his books is called The Works of Love, a wonderful book.

In the book he says that Jesus said, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

And then Kierkegaard asked himself, Jesus said you should love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Is Jesus commanding us to love ourselves?

If you don't love yourself, you can't love your neighbor according to Jesus.

So you must love yourself.

And indeed, in the Roman Catholic tradition, you can't love God truly if you don't love yourself.

In the Protestant tradition, self-love became narcissism in the Protestant tradition.

The Protestants are saying that if you self-love, you can't really love others.

You can't love your neighbors. You can't love your colleagues. You can't love your family. You can't love God.

Self-love is a barrier. It's a firewall.

It's a defense against loving others, against what we call object relations.

In Catholicism, and with Kierkegaard, it's not the case, he believes you must self-love. You must love yourself. It's a dictum by God and Jesus, and without this, you can't love anyone else.

Kierkegaard admits that you need to love yourself very subtly.

There is a type of self-love that is deeply unhealthy, destroys humanity, and there is proper self-love.

Proper self-love makes us whole, makes us complete persons.

So according to Kierkegaard, what Jesus said is not that you should first love yourself and then love your neighbor, but you should realize that love for your neighbor and love for yourself are the same thing.

There is no self apart from others.

Relationships constitute the self, or in Jung's language, relationships constellate the self.

Kierkegaard doesn't call it love, he calls it forgiveness.

He says only when you forgive your neighbor, you truly forgive yourself, but you must forgive.

Here is a quote from his book. When it is said you should love your neighbor as yourself, therein is contained what is presupposed, that every man loves himself.

Is it possible for anyone to misunderstand this? As if it were the intention of Christianity to proclaim self-love as a prescriptive right?

On the contrary, it is its purpose to wrest self-love away from us human beings.

This implies loving one's self, but if one must love his neighbor as himself, then the command, like a pick, wrenches open the lock of self-love and thereby rests it away from a man.

This as yourself does not waver in its aim and with the firmness of the eternal it critically penetrates.

It reaches the innermost hiding place where a man loves himself.

It does not leave self-love the slightest excuse or the tiniest escape hatch.

As Jacob limped after having struggled with God, so shall self-love be broken if it has struggled with this phrase, which nevertheless does not seek to teach a man not to love himself, but in fact rather seeks to teach him proper self-love. Therefore - as yourself.

Suppose the most cunning deceiver who is ever in order, if possible, to have the opportunity of using many words and becoming loquacious (for then the deceiver would quickly conquer), were tempting to question the royal law year in and year out, "how shall I love my neighbor?"

Then the terse command, unchanged, will continue to repeat the short phrase, "as yourself."

And if any deceiver has deceived himself throughout his whole life by all sorts of verbosity concerning this subject, the eternal will only hold him to the terse word of the law, as yourself.

No one, to be sure, will be able to escape this command.

If it's as yourself comes as close to the life of self-love as is possible, then one's neighbor is again a qualification as fatally close to self-love as possible.

Self-love itself perceives that it is an impossibility to shirk this.

The only escape is the one which the Pharisees in their time also tried in order to justify themselves: to let it be doubtful who one's neighbor is - in order to get him out of one's life.

Self-love, says Kierkegaard, is loving another.

The self is the totality of our interconnected mesh with other people. That's our self, he says.

If we love ourselves, by definition we love the self which is all our human contacts and by extension all of humanity.

He denies actually the possibility of an individual.

He says that to have a self is to immerse yourself in the totality of the human experience and with all other people, with all other human beings.

If you think that you can survive and live and love yourself without the aid and the support and the involvement and the penetration of other people, you are what he calls a deceiver.

Truer words have never been spoken, ask any narcissist.

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