If They Can’t Handle You at Your Worst, They Don’t Deserve You at Your Best?

Some days I feel on top of the world, when everything is going right and life is good. But some days bring out my worst insecurities and my worst moods and I feel like I could explode at any minute like a pressure cooker that’s been heating for too long.  Anyone else with me?

There’s a certain movie star with an hourglass shape, red lips, and bright blonde hair who gave her two cents about how girls like us should handle relationships.

“If they can’t handle you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best.”

In other words, if your guy can’t put up with you when you’re feeling impatient, grumpy, insecure (and the list goes on), you should dump him and find someone who can.

Sounds like pretty solid relationship advice, right? It sure seems like a good suggestion for self care. Or is it really just self promotion masquerading as self care? Before we make a judgment call on the soundness of this advice, let’s dig in to Scripture to see what love looks like in its pure form.

Greater love has no one than this

John 15:12-13 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

To understand the weight of this statement that Jesus has made about love, we need to take a look at the context of the passage. Jesus and the disciples were in the upper room, celebrating Passover. Jesus has just washed the feet of His disciples. He has identified the one who will betray Him and warned the one who would deny Him. He urged them to abide in Him by imitating His divine example of love.

Jesus extended love to His betraying, denying, prideful friends not because of what they did for Him, but because of His character. Because He is loving, compassionate, and gracious, He poured Himself out as He washed their feet, took on their suffering, and died in their place. He loved, not because of what the disciples could do for Him, but for the sake of the glorious name of God.

And in John 15, He calls us to imitate Him with this same kind of self-giving love.

Self promoting love

This kind of love flies in the face of someone who believes that they have to test their significant other to see if they are worth their love and time. Jesus’ love was unconditional. The disciples couldn’t lose it, and they certainly couldn’t earn it. But the girl who buys into the message that no one deserves her unless they can handle her at her worst is offering up conditional love.

A love that is lasting is self giving. A love that is destined to fail is self seeking. When we believe that we need to get rid of anyone who can’t handle our worst, our heart is absorbed in meeting our own needs and wants and is unconcerned with making the other feel valued. 

Our relationship advice originally comes from a quote from Marilyn Monroe. The quote in its entirety goes something like this, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure… don’t deserve me at my best.”

Can you hear the self-centeredness? Every statement begins with “I”. She even admits to her selfishness. But did Marilyn’s message bring joy or contentment to her own relationships? Three marriages. Three divorces. It certainly doesn’t seem that way.

Self forgetful love

Marilyn’s method for maintaining relationships is hard-wired into each of us. We all are prone to seek out our own interests in any relationship we find ourselves in. But what would it look like if we followed Jesus’ example of love, like we see in John 15? How would our relationships change if instead of being self promoting we were self forgetful?

Self forgetfulness happens when someone is set on making another person feel valued. It happens when someone is seeking out ways to serve the other rather than looking for ways to be served. It happens when someone no longer thinks about their own discomfort or insecurities because they are occupied with making God’s love known to another.

In a relationship that is God centric, this self sacrificing love will be demonstrated mutually. Both will be set on imitating Jesus’ love. They won’t be constantly evaluating whether the other deserves them, but will get over themselves to make the love of God known.

Whether you find yourself in a relationship or not, you can begin to develop the characteristic of self forgetfulness. On the days when you feel insecure, uncomfortable, and especially moody – when you are so full of steam that you could explode at any moment just like that pressure cooker – make your heart kneel before God and ask Him to help you to develop self forgetfulness. Ask Him for the grace to get over yourself, the heart to serve another, and the desire to make His love known.


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