This idea really has serious implications.
First, I must say, I don't find very many people that love themselves. This is odd since most people are selfish and narcissistic and indulgent. But what I mean is that most people at the core dislike who they are and have a hard time cutting themselves any slack. They beat themselves up, they believe horrible things about themselves, they refuse to receive affirmation, they are dismantled at the slightest criticism because it confirms their greatest fear(s)...it's really quite sad.
I know, I know...as you look about you, people are "in love" with themselves and their accomplishments. Their ego is an over-ripened watermelon splitting open at the slightest prick of a blade's end. People talk up themselves and interject stories of their own "awesomeness" whenever a break in the conversation allows for it. Humans are vain and vaunted vultures feeding on others to nourish their own sense of self-worth. This is also true. But I think less true.
I think what is more true is that people are ineffably insecure and nervous. Flitting and floundering about with the darting eyes of a child scared of getting caught. People are afraid of exposure and what would happen if others knew just how sad, sorry and sick they really were. Even people that "are confident aren't", is what I'm trying to say. Even people that look connected aren't. Individuals that appear sinless may actually struggle more with sin than those who wear their sin on their shirtsleeve. Those that talk big are quite likely to think very small of themselves using strong language to convince themselves of what they doubt very seriously in secret.
My experience of others, especially when you move beyond the "hey, how are you?"-"Good, how 'bout you?"-"Good"-"Good to hear."-"Great."-"Welp, have a great day."-"You too."-"Bye."-"See ya." kind of exchange is that people are quite enslaved to anxiety and anger directed mostly at themselves. They hate themselves; they hate their misbehavior; they loathe their lack of follow-through and their chronic co-dependance. They are nervous about what others think and obsessed with "conversations inside their head" before, during and after the "actual conversation". They crucify themselves for saying too much or too little after an interaction. They can't accept God's forgiveness when they sin and nurse a hidden fear that they aren't, in fact, really saved. People want penance if only for the feeling of doing something hurtful to themselves to pay for their moral misdemeanor. People want to pay for their crimes, they want to feel the justification that comes through doing time. And they walk about "serving time" for their daily crimes.
People hate themselves. They wish they were better at something. They wish they could be a different person. They dislike their personality and skill sets. They don't feel comfortable in their skin. Most people put themselves up on the butcher table of their own mind and dice themselves into little beef tips. They scrutinize and criticize themselves with mercilessness. They are haunted by their own impossible expectations they place on themselves...always falling short, always keenly aware of failure and futility.
And so what Jesus is saying is that we need to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Do you see the irony of this? No wonder people treat each other so horribly. No wonder people don't know how to reach out with grace or to forgive an offense. Road rage makes more sense. The use of the middle finger can be better explained. Rants and fits of rage provide a window into someone's soul. Fidgety awkwardness and vague answers to personal questions has an origin. Insecurity begets insecurity. Anger begets anger. Hurt people hurt people.
I am the worst of sinners when it comes to this manslaughter. I take things out on myself. I lie in bed chewing myself out, up one side and down the other. I always look at my presentation and performance through a microscopic lens of perfectionism. I turn on myself. I make mountains out of molehills. I throw babies out with bathwater. I know how to over-react to my slip-ups and punish myself with "suicide runs" for actionable or attitudinal tardiness.
The brutality with which people treat themselves makes it impossible to love anyone or anything.
I hope to be nicer to myself for the remainder of this day. It's not letting myself off the hook to actually say to myself, "I love myself and I love my life, Thank you, God."
Sounds vain, I know, but I wish I treated myself better. I think others would benefit from that.