We were staying with friends, and I was getting ready for the day in their daughter's bathroom. It was a typical tween-age space: cute stickers and sayings posted to the mirror, hair products and cotton balls and drugstore makeup on the shelf. A quote on the mirror caught my eye: "I'm Third." It came from Kanakuk, a Christian sports camp in Missouri. In smaller print, I found an explanation: "God first. Others second. I'm third."

Something about the quote struck me as off. I knew it came from the Bible. When the teachers of the law ask Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment?" he responds, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' " (Matt. 22:37-38). I assume the Kanakuk saying intends to echo Jesus, yet the Bible states the command in a less hierarchical manner. Love of God remains at the top of the list, but love of neighbor and self are inextricably related. In fact, Jesus' command implies that we will know how to love our neighbor only if we properly love ourselves.

I remembered that Kanakuk saying upon reading two recent articles about self-help. In the first, "Change We Can (Almost) Believe In," Time reporter Nathan Thornburgh describes his quest for personal wholeness at the Landmark Forum, "one of the country's largest personal-development workshops," and later through yoga. Thornburgh, who went feeling disappointed "about myself and my default noir outlook on life," said he walked away "increasingly curious about the vast number of people in the midrange of the self-help spectrum: the enthusiastic brigades of the transformists and yogis and New Agers who embrace ...

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