In James 2:8 (NASB)

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Is it assumed that we love ourselves? Wondering because in self-help content one commonly hears that we must love ourselves before we can love others.

  • Obviously yes. Because the modern self help content is meant for the depressed people maybe who are hating themselves. The self loathing pretense of the religious, which is based on total depravity doctrine, which exalt itself in the self loathing competition with one another claiming to be bigger sinner than the other guy, instead of competing in doing righteousness (Rom 12:10)
    – Michael16
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:07

4 Answers 4


Short answer

Rather than loving others according to how much we love ourselves already, a fuller interpretation should also uses the measure of much how God has loves us already. We are thus called to love others according to the measure of how much God loves us. The more we realize how much God loves us the more we can love others.

Long answer

In another answer I highlighted that when we understand love as "wishing a person's true happiness" (which includes salvation), it's a "tough love" since working out our salvation is arduous (Phil 2:12-13) and full of trials (1 Pet 1:7).

It is a common maxim that God loves us more than we love ourselves. Once we become slave of Christ, God wouldn't let us go until His work in us is finished. Therefore, loving others as we love ourselves means that we want God to shower them with grace in the context of salvation as much as we need grace to love ourselves. As God has shown grace to us, we need to show grace to others too by:

  • forgiving them as we forgive ourselves
  • giving them second chances as we give second chance to ourselves
  • comforting them as we comfort ourselves when evil strikes
  • rebuke them when they sin as we rebuke ourselves when we sin
  • provide material comforts when disaster strikes as we also seek assistance when disaster strikes us
  • etc.

Therefore, if we ask the right question "How does God love us?" we then can:

  • avoid the trap of treating "loving ourselves" like non Christian self-help books
  • thinking that loving others mean giving them worldly things (because everyone needs to work for their own needs, when able)

Instead, loving others means extending the kind of love that God has given us to others as well.


Instead of answering the question as stated, I’d like to suggest another way of looking at the text, which does not say that you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself, but to love your neighbor as yourself. When we isolate the phrase “your neighbor as yourself,” a relationship is seen between neighbor and self that can be represented by the equation:

                              Your neighbor = Yourself

We can picture this relationship as a mirror-image, wherein neighbor is a reflection of self. To see oneself reflected in one’s neighbor is a key characteristic of empathy. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” Thus, to love your neighbor as yourself requires a willingness to stand in the shoes of another and experience the world through their eyes, struggles, and vulnerabilities.

Loving “your neighbor as yourself” also means seeing the interconnections and commonalities between oneself and one's neighbor. From the perspective of faith, it is a reminder of our shared identity as the children of God. To love your neighbor as yourself thus requires that we recognize the inherent value and dignity of each person and see the image of God in one another. It is in this way that love of neighbor is like the first and greatest commandment.

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39

Reflecting on the OP’s question, loving oneself is not the most important requisite to love of neighbor. What is necessary is for us to realize God’s love for us. Only when we ourselves experience the love and mercy of God can we begin to truly love God and one another.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:10


It is impossible to love others without loving oneself in terms of the eternal perspective of the Bible. One must understand that one is made "in the image and likeness of God", bearing thus a stamp of the infinite dignity and touch of the infinite perfection on his essence. Only if one understands this, then one can appreciate the very same dignity in other people also and be able to love and respect them for that.

Otherwise, if one does not see in himself the infinite dignity, then such a narrow-minded and self-disrespecting guy (for not seeing infinite dignity in oneself is absence of proper self-respect) will neither see it in others. When I know that I am as important for God, as that He sent His only co-eternal Son, His Logos for saving me and giving me eternal life, only by this knowledge I can see also others as my companions in eternal life and love them as myself.

Not only the Bible but also philosophers come to this conclusion, for instance Immanuel Kant says that since I see in myself infinite value and do not want to be used by anybody as mere means for any other goal (for no goal can be more valuable than person who has infinite value, for there is nothing more than infinity), so also I should not treat other people as means for any of my goals, but see in them also the infinite value and treat them as ends in themselves. Thus, for Kant the ideal society is called "Kingdom of Ends".


Berean Study Bible Proverbs 19:8

He who acquires wisdom loves himself; one who safeguards understanding will find success.

Yes, loving yourself is important but not selfishly, 2 Timothy 3:

2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

Loving yourself is natural, Ephesians 5:

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.

A person   loves   his own body.
Christ     loves   the church 

James 2:8

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

In James 2:8, is it assumed that we love ourselves?

Yes, but not in the selfish loving sense.

Here another verse that makes the same assumption, Ephesians 5:33a

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself

We can only give to others what we have possessed. If we do not love ourselves, we have no love to give. If we only love ourselves, we do not know love, 1 John 4:7

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

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