Probably, egoists have never been as cute and charming as they are today. Indeed, a true egoist now has something to show. He is cheerful and easy in his judgments, he succeeds in everything, nothing confuses him – an eagle, and nothing else. If Lermontov were alive, the hero of our time would have been just like this. But there is a problem – this brilliant egoist is completely incapable of either long-term relationships, or hard professional work, or any form of responsibility. It is terrible that the egoist solves all his problems even before they manifest in his life. The wife began to annoy – the egoist easily and painlessly breaks up with her. Work began to bore – the egoist quickly changes it. The salary seems to be too small – the egoist without any hesitation will explain to the authorities that his services have risen in price and they need to loosen purse-strings.
The egoist easily sends both children, parents, and everyone who has the misfortune to trust him to the altar of tender and touching love for himself. No doubts and anxieties dampen the high egoistic brow. Why? After all, they may cause pain, and is it what he was born for? Everything in himself pleases the egoist inexpressibly. The whole world lies at his feet. This whole world was created only to make the egoist feel good. God, people, good and evil, – all that is only a convertible currency, for which the egoist buys the main thing – his own happiness. It is difficult, almost impossible to argue with egoists. “What can Christianity offer me, apart from gloomy self-deprecation, hopeless contempt for myself and slow sinking to the dark bottom of repentance?” an advanced egoist rhetorically asks. “And why do I need this?” he immediately answers to himself. “Why should I dive to the bottom of repentance if I want to realize myself completely, in all my manifestations, whatever they could be? And if you don’t like my manifestations, this is your problem, sorry!”
And that’s where the egoist is seriously mistaken.
The fact is that the proposal of Christianity is not only not limited to self-destruction, but directly contradicts it. By affirming the vertical dimension of the value of human life and clearly differentiating between good and evil, Christianity offers to love oneself, but only in good, and not in any way bad. The main problem of the egoist is that, being completely focused on himself, he does not distinguish between good and evil inside himself. He does not care at all, due to what or whom he will achieve success. He considers something a success and stays happy notwithstanding that the success has grown on the scandal or any abomination. He doesn’t even care that he gradually loses himself, disintegrates as a person. Having chosen his own pleasure as a point of reference, the egoist ceases to see that in reality he is seriously and terribly ill.
But, contrary to the false belief, Christianity does not at all urge us to bury ourselves in perpetual repentance. On the contrary, Christianity requires us to love ourselves, but not in everything, but in the best. Christian self-love is built on the same reliable and solid foundation as our love for the dearest and closest people. Knowing the shortcomings of our beloved people, we single out, cultivate and mentally kiss their virtues, their inner beauty.
Imagine an ordinary situation familiar to everyone. We have lived with a loved person for a long time, we see how slowly and steadily he loses the beauty of his youth, grows old, and weakens physically. Meanwhile, this person is still dear to us. Looking at the aged parents, we see them young, as we remember and love them from childhood. They do not become old people for us, on the contrary, they bloom in the rays of our love, revealing more and more merits. With the change of their appearance, we see more clearly the youthful features of eternal perfection in them. No wonder – these are the most important people for us! Not only parents, but also husbands, wives, children – they all demand from us this look of love that distinguishes and highlights the best. It is for this best in them that we hold on to, forgiving mistakes and failures, even if they cause us many problems.
But if we can love others so much, why not turn this look of love to ourselves? This is exactly what Christianity proposes to do – to see and love oneself in good, giving up and overcoming the evil. That’s how we can come to Christ: only clinging to the best in ourselves.
Christianity calls us to look at the most important point: at Christ and at the image of God in other people and in ourselves. We need to try to love in ourselves exactly what strives towards Him, what can help us to conform to this striking, truly genuine image.
Exactly in order to become real, you say to yourself: I do not like this and that features in myself. In the Church, this is called repentance, that is, the work of ridding yourself of the monstrosity that you discover in yourself and which prevents you from finding a genuine face. The meaning of Christian love for oneself is in the desire to find a face with which a person can enter eternity. It’s about the perfect image, including everything – body, soul, and spirit. The image that Christians believe can rise for a blessed eternity with God. Therefore, Christianity, the religion of love, offers man a unified attitude not only to God and his neighbors, but also to himself. This love, aiming for the future, love to what we can and should become in the eyes of God, love, which means not blissful “stupid” relaxation, but intense and joyful creativity throughout life.
Translated by Alyona Malafeeva.