Loving Neighbors “As Ourselves”

Feeling Comfortable In Your Skin - The DMC Clinic - Counselling Wexford

The inability of many humans to love themselves is the root of great mischief in the world of life under the sun. It’s why trauma — especially childhood trauma — is such a great evil, for how can one love their neighbors, if they cannot love themselves? Those victims of such often wrap themselves in shame by blaming themselves for the trauma. These people feel unlovable and do their best to bury this truth rather than allowing others to see their pain. Who wants to appear weak in a world that associates success with godliness?

Acts of charity are often self-centered — even just to receive a simple pat on the back or a tax write-off — instead of simply loving our neighbors in the eternal moment of the here and now.

It Is the great lie of the devil (a.k.a. the human ego) that any of us are unlovable, for life views each of us exactly the same. As such, we’re all lovable and connected in the moment. Emphasizing only our behavior towards others, however, traps us in the worlds of time and space, because that is where behavior resides. This is why we can never “perform” in such a way that guarantees a right relationship with God and others. We cannot pray enough to make ourselves more righteous, worship enough, attend church enough, do enough good works, meditate enough, read the Bible enough, or do any of the acts usually attributed to holy living.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”

— I John 4:7–8

If we don’t or can’t love ourselves, it’s impossible for us to love one another.

This is pretty serious stuff to those Christians who believe they’re following the great commandments of Jesus:

“… and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

— Matthew 22:35–40

The implied aspect of commanding us to love ourselves is missed by theologians who are hung up on our behavior towards others, including God. However, the love of self isn’t universal with the interference of ego’s two-sided coin. Who, after all, has the time and energy to love oneself when we’re just trying to make it through the quagmires and quicksands of everyday life? Self-protection isn’t self-love, although it sure seems so at times. For sure, the providing of food, clothing, and shelter for oneself and family is a part of loving oneself, but not to the exclusion of all the other aspects of the commandment.

And love is a one-way street, from the source, through us and to others. Love doesn’t seek itself, as the ego does, and this forms the basis for human conflict. So, what does it really mean to love yourself? Here are ten concepts for your consideration: (Also see The Parable of the Garden Hose)

1. It begins with ruthless honesty, starting with the idea that we are ALL corrupt and cannot be trusted to behave selflessly. This would be a problem were it not for the sacrifice of the cross, because we are now capable of great good, although we mostly choose to care only for ourselves. Notice that even the gospel itself has been corrupted by this, as described in Pat Robertson’s discussion with me about why people give to ministries:

It helps me
It helps my family
It helps my community
It helps my state
It helps my country
It helps fulfill the great commission
It helps others who are less fortunate

The Gospel of Self

Notice that this is an ever-widening circle that begins closely wrapped around self interest. That is a great illustration of the heresy currently practiced by a great throng of “Christians”.

2. We are residents of Earth, because of God’s (Life’s) grace. We did nothing ourselves to get here, so the idea that we can actually “manage” life while living under the sun is the disaster undergirding contemporary hierarchies. We “deserve” nothing, because we are nothing when compared to life overarching. We “deserve” vanquishment, because faith is built upon the foundation that we are ALL “unprofitable servants” of the most-high God. In other words, we don’t move mountains to draw attention to ourselves, regardless of how “good” those works are. Our right relationship with life, therefore, is that it has all the power and we have none.

Apple trees would die everywhere, if they tried to manage the growth and development of their own fruit. They are merely unprofitable conduits in life’s production of apples. They don’t question; they simply produce. What could the human race accomplish, if we could behave in the same manner? Anything.

3. Everybody has difficulties. In accepting our own, we are more likely to have compassion for others, and this is an essential part of loving our neighbors. In so doing, we also give ourselves permission to fail, for we all WILL certainly fail. We simply cannot be perfect, despite our own desires to be so, or at least to project ourselves as perfect for the benefit of observers.

4. No one is better than or worse than the rest in the moment. We are all human and impacted in human ways. It matters not how we feel. As a doctor once taught me, “People are like snowflakes, all different, but all the same. Put a flame to snowflakes, and they melt. Stab us with an icepick, and we bleed.” This part of loving ourselves is critical to a right understanding of life under the sun.

5. We should not be overly critical of ourselves, for such is a trap that our egos present. We need to criticize ourselves with great care, for in so doing, we will be much less critical of others. The greatest weight we carry through life, the baggage that we often put on others, is the angry and critical spirit that grows from imperfection’s soil.

6. Joy — and even great joy — is carried by loving ourselves, for it is a fruit of the spirit. Happiness depends on what’s happening and is, therefore, a useless pursuit. If eating chocolate, for example, makes you happy, then it follows that you must always be eating chocolate in order to “feel” happy. Loving ourselves has little to do with feelings, for emotions come from the senses, which accompany our animal nature. If you know joy, you will be happy.

7. Given the above, we also love ourselves when we open our minds to life and its great possibilities. There is no greater block that our egos can use to defile us than a closed mind, one that is rule-bound and carefully boxed, so as to present ourselves dishonestly as obedient, committed, and, well, perfect. Remember always the words of Henry Adams, “The way of nature is change (chaos): the dream of man Is order.” Those who stress law and order over compassion are closed-minded, self-centered, and not loving of themselves. They are then unable to love their neighbors.

8. In everything give thanks, for we’ve done nothing on our own. Be thankful even in times of deep darkness, like the death of a loved one, because joy will return after a season of grieving. Let’s permit ourselves to grieve in times of loss, for such suffering is the key to downstream wholeness. Even setting a time limit for deep grieving is an act of self-love, and one that our lost loved ones would desire for us.

9. I’m sure there are many other aspects of loving ourselves that could be inserted into this list, but this an important skill that’s possible for each of us, and that is to recognize and therefore acknowledge the voice of our ego. When we talk to ourselves (everybody does) who’s talking with whom? This is a great place to begin our study. Remember that the ego is a liar (and the father of all lies) and that he lives in our heads. When we question ourselves, don’t be surprised if he answers, and we can usually determine which voice is which.

10. Finally, remember the paradox of prosperity, that discontent increases with opportunities for acting on it. This is the trap that leads (mostly) the rich to never be satisfied with what they have, and this is one of the most common ways that we fail to love ourselves and by default, our neighbors.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.