How are things? Life good?
Have you noticed that in our recent correspondence on matters of love that we’ve mentioned the importance of self love more than once? Indeed, this is a requirement of biblical importance with Jesus himself instructing that you should “love your neighbor as yourself”.
“The ultimate care for self is to care for others. If you care for others, Allah will care for you”Shaykh Hanna Yusuf
But let’s pull over for a moment, park the car and think, because this admonition troubles me.
The reason I am troubled?
Well we live in a messed up world. I have a friend who’s daughter harms herself from time to time. I mean deliberately harms herself and I know she is in no way unique. I observe regularly people who struggle with issue of self esteem, feelings of inadequacy, zero belief in their own self worth. Then there are those with issues of addiction, and addictions comes in a multitude of forms. Take drug or alcohol addiction or anyone of the many other forms of addiction. I’ve been told and I’ve read these addictions are not the base issue. Rather the base issue can be at a psychological level associated with things such as rejection, abuse or a vacuum in their lives where there should be love.
With me so far?
So for a whole bunch of people, loving others as they love themselves is just sending damage and pain into the world, The instruction sucks, in fact it’s darn right offensive because there’s nothing there to give. Where do I go from here because I absolutely believe you can’t give what you haven’t got? There are those who have nothing to offer their neighbors and I suspect that the number is larger than we would like to admit.
Did Jesus not realise this? After all he faced more than his fair share of damaged people. The unlovable seems to have been the currency he dealt in.
I’ve looked at this from many sides and, choosing to believe Jesus would not mislead us, I accept there is real content in what he reportedly said and find myself reaching for understanding. Yes, I am that guy who just has to know 😳
Now, take note, Jesus didn’t say “as you like yourself” and there is often confusion, a muddling of love and like. ‘Like’ is dependent on something appealing in the other person. A quality that is attractive. Love isn’t. Love is a thing, a quality, an essence within you. It’s a power, in fact for those who realise it, it is a superpower worthy of a cloak and a mask. A Marvel comic all of its own. Yes, people have reduced it to romance, sex – we made love – artistic appreciation, indeed, anything that attracts us, where cries of “Oh, I love that” can be heard. But in doing so we have sold love short, so very short. It is a force we can access that makes all else shrink in relevance.
Whatever you accept about yourself cannot be used against you. Be willing to own your truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. The good and the ugly are all part of your story. You never know who you can inspire by being your authentic, unapologetic self.Ash Alves
As with all other things we need to exercise it because like lifting weights it is not something that is initially done with ease and, as with weights, we need to start small. But we all, each and everyone of us, have a latent ability to love. And if you and I are beginners in the act of love our whole game plan may leave us looking clumsy or inept because it takes time and much practice and, most of all, it takes sacrifice.
So when Jesus said “as you love yourself” was there a deeper challenge? Let me change the context to one you and I easily understand. Imagine Jesus turned to his followers and said: “Teach others to run as well, as far, as fast as you do”. Now that should strike a chord because you run. You give time to practice. You push yourself. You endure pain to achieve goals. You compete. In fact, you know “running”. So as Jesus said, “Go into the world and create runners like you” you’re thinking easy, great, yeah I can do that. Gonna get us a team .
Except he didn’t. He said “love others as you love yourself” and accepting he really wouldn’t ask us to do something we are not capable of we need to learn to love ourselves. To start seeking the best for ourselves. To be kind to others. To impose discipline where there hasn’t been any because, well maybe, that stuff we’ve been saying, thinking and doing, it isn’t the best! To impose discipline because if we are going to do this we are going to need to practice. We will need to go into situation after situation asking “If this was me, how would I wish to be treated, what outcome would I seek or desire?” To be mindful in all our dealing with others.
To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.Robert Morley
And those who are so lost as to actually be unable to love themselves? Who may have grown being denied the love that should have been there? Who have no model to apply?
Well for those it’s a gradual process. Little by little. Very limited exposure over a period of time. Like muscles that have never been exercised. Can the power of the past be removed? I’ve known people who have been healed of the pain of the past and I know those that haven’t yet. The past is always there but it doesn’t have to hold sway over the present and by first modelling self love, and then moving out from there we can offer hope. By dealing with our own pain, our own failings, our own destructive thought patterns we become those who actually have something to offer.
Love is a latent force in each of us. Regrettably it will remain latent in many. But the potential that it has for those who begin the journey to embrace it is immense.
Yours, taking lessons,