Moving on: "Dying to self" is described frequently and it's based in scripture.
I have heard it described different ways. It begins with another concept in Christianity: "being born again", which is what happens when a person chooses the faith. It is a lifelong commitment to live differently, I see it most described as "turning away from sinfulness".
I think it's much more complex than that. I also think it's possible to coexist with self-love. Hang with me. I've read different Christian blogs on this topic and listened to sermons and I have thoughts here.
"Dying to Self" sounds scary because most of us don't enjoy suffering. We bristle at limitations and the life of a Christian is seen as very restrictive. True, I think part of living a Christian life is those things, but in a far deeper way than we want to go. Personally, I don't get real convicted about the tv I watch or whether it's fitting a "Good Wholesome Christian Model", that's just not where my walk is. If you're convicted by that okay. However, I find a lot of examples about living a Christian life and this focus on fitting into the Christian culture- but not about having a Christian heart.
"Turning away from sin" by scorning TV programs (uproars on 'Beauty and Beast' for a gay character come to mind), only listening to worship music, etc etc. These ideas that your life must be more about fitting into the Christian culture and doing what "appears to be wholesome". Living a positive life is never a bad thing. However, when we talk about "Dying to self" I sometimes see it presented as an advertisement or propaganda message to make sure you're fitting into the faith.
I'm not here to judge what convicts a person in their walk, I literally cannot do that. However, when I think of that concept, something else comes to mind. It's an adjustment of how I live in my head, just as much as how I live in my life. Dying to self: means I don't pick up an offense when someone hurts me. Dying to self: means I don't behave with pettiness. Dying to self: means I respond with love to those around me. Dying to self: means I turn to God when I'm feeling those negative emotions- because my knee jerk desire- is going to be what I want and what gratifies most immediately.
For me personally, in my spiritual walk, it also means that sometimes, I don't bring those struggles to God at all. Hang with me. There are times when I want to go back and *again* tell God what hurts my heart, because the emotion of that in the moment is tough. For me, I feel at times that "Dying to Self"and walking in faith- means putting that aside to pray about others, to worship, to put my "look at my boo boo God and make it better" times down. When I had this "revelation" or whatever, I felt God telling me "it's okay, I know what hurts your heart. I know. You aren't alone, but there are also other things that are important right now."
It was one of the first moments of gentle correction I've felt. I struggle with seeing God as benevolent towards me as a person. God in Christian culture is a "Father", when you don't have a great relationship with your biological father, it can be hard to see the heavenly one in a different light. So, I felt this redirection with gentleness, a similar patient voice that I tell my children, when I know they have a need, but I need their focus elsewhere.
Sometimes I think as Christians we want to go to God "fix it fix it now. This hurts, make it go away God" and put lots and lots of energy toward those complaints. It was always impressed upon me (and I would agree) God is not a cosmic Santa Claus to kiss all our ouchiebooboos. It's supposed to be a relationship.
So, we also live in an age of "self-love" becoming more prevalent in American Culture (probably elsewhere too, I just don't live elsewhere). I have read some critiques of this movement from the Christian base because it takes the focus away from God and is idolatry.
1) We already worship ourselves.
Seriously. That's why the whole "dying to self" thing is so important. However, I feel like there's this disconnect. That because there is faith, that "oh no no no, we're not like those guys", we're superior. Our entire culture is self-focused. Even in the Christian world. Look at our focus on fitting in, because the times we don't, we talk about it, tons. "We're not of the world. Look at how much different and better we are." We even do that to other Christians. "We're not like those 'frozen chosen' or those crazy charismatics or mystical Catholics." Then we make our own groups and their rules of fitting in, and how much better we are for not being like the people who we feel don't like us. It's a round-robin of pride and self. I'm not even trying to call out anyone personally here, I'm just stating: "I've seen this stuff and hey, I'm as guilty as needing superiority as anyone else. I'm not trying to throw stones as those my own hands aren't dirty."
2) God created the Self: This is where I get confused. I have read some critiques of the "self-love" culture and yet I also hear things like this a lot: "You're a child of God. God made you in his image. God designed you. God doesn't make mistakes. You're a prince or princess of Christ." etc etc. Similar statements about how you shouldn't speak negatively about yourself, alter yourself, or heaven-forbid-change genders: because this is what God designed. So how can we not love ourselves and embrace the beauty of that and the gift it is to see yourself as you were created, instead of the negative way plenty of the world wants you to see yourself, most especially so that you'll buy something for it. How can self love not be a part of the Christian ideology?
Self love- is never supposed to be self-worship. As soon as you're making burnt offerings at the table of your ego, you missed the message. It is however, supposed to accept your humanity, knowing that we are not God and therefore not perfect but still loved and worthy. If we are all children of God and designed by him, then we should celebrate this fact and also work to be best versions of ourselves we can be.
So then how do we "die to self" in one hand and "love our self" in the other? Well, it's because they aren't really conflicting ideologies. To love yourself, desire inner peace, and be the best person you can be: you would want to put aside pettiness, offense, gossip, and examine those negative emotions. In loving yourself, you also reflect on who you are. I think the only thing with "dying to self" is that you have a faith that means you don't have to face those reflections alone or and that there is a God willing to help you walk that.
Self love isn't self-indulgence and I think sometimes that's what gets confused. People want to live in an extreme not a balance. They're either hyper-legalistically living their discipline to "crucify themselves for Christ", almost as if to compare self-flagellation. "Who's really walking better here?" I've seen it and that's just sneaky pride. The need to be self-righteously better than the next guy: no good. Then you get hyper-indulgent "myself can do no wrong" and I'm going to accept myself so fully that I am blind to my mistakes. It's a delusion. That's equally no good.
They don't have to be in conflict with one another. These are two things that perhaps are quite made for each other. The "death" to the selfishness that is in all our nature, and the "love" that comes in knowing that: "beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair."