Dec 11, 2018
Dear Sisters & Brothers,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” While I am not really sure if it was on Jesus’ mind when He offered this as the second of the “Great Commandments,” I have always had the notion that you have to first learn to love yourself, before you can love others. Perhaps it is because, in our modern world, we see so many examples of low self-worth, even self-loathing. So much of the violence we see, stems from people not seeing any potential in themselves. If they don’t value their own lives, there is no reason for them to value the lives of anyone else. And I will admit that when I was a teenager I went through a period of low self-esteem.
When you don’t love yourself, it is very hard to believe that anyone else would love you. I have seen this played out in relationships, and even marriages. Low self-esteem can manifest itself as paranoia, jealousy, even abuse. When you are struggling to see your own gifts, you struggle even harder with the very idea of why anyone else would, or could, love you. And so, you begin to get very suspicious of the motives of anyone and everyone who expresses concern for you. “If I can’t love myself, then certainly no one else can love me, so why are they pretending to care?” This can spiral into serious depression and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Low self-esteem also keeps us from loving our neighbor. Instead of loving them, we can become jealous of them. We envy the qualities in others that we cannot see in ourselves. And if you have never learned to love yourself (I am, of course, not talking about thinking you’re the greatest person in the world, being egotistical.), you’ll never learn to love others. Truly loving someone, whether that’s a neighbor or yourself, requires that you not only see and appreciate the good, but that you also see and accept the bad. We all have faults & failings. If you are looking for perfection you will never find it. Or if you do, you are merely turning a blind eye to a person’s faults, and before you know it you are worshipping the person, idolizing them. And this is not healthy either, because sooner or later your eyes will be opened, you will see some flaw, and that person will come crashing down off the pedestal you put them on.
It is only when we have a nice healthy love for ourselves, warts and all, that we can truly learn to love others. It’s only when we accept that we are not perfect, that we begin to accept the fact that no one else is either. And just as we have grown to love ourselves in this imperfect, yet accepting way - only then can we truly “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Finally, if I could offer one piece of parenting advice, it would be to affirm your child. You don’t have to turn them into spoiled brats, who think they can do no wrong, but encourage them and point out their gifts, whatever they may be. Don’t admonish them for not being as good at, or even interested in, the things you wish they were interested in. Spend more time praising than admonishing. Point out more gifts than failings. Spend time getting to know the person your child is becoming, and simply love your child for who they are.
In the Redeemer,