Loving Neighbors “As Ourselves”

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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.

The True Importance of Love

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Love is a one-way force that begins at the source and flows out of each of us towards others. What’s the source? Life itself, and the source of everything within which we live and move and have our being. We can’t pluck it from the sky and offer that to others, because love is an inside job. We can’t see the connection, but it’s there nonetheless, like a giant vacuum hose sucking fresh air in from beyond and filling every nook and cranny of the house until it bursts open the windows and doors out onto every street under the sun. In this way, we can give love away and never doubt that we’ll have a refill when we need it. It’s a breath of fresh air for our souls, genuine, authentic, and a balm for what ails.

This is why it feels oh so good to be in love.

Some people mistakenly feel they must hang on to whatever they have, including love. These are the stingy self-deceived, those who believe love is a limited resource. They’ve made this decision based on some experience(s) from the past, which results in hanging onto such incidents as normal. When this happens, however, these souls are forced to live with regret, anger, and self-pity. Love doesn’t exist in the past, so in a very real way, these people are living a life sentence apart from love’s healing power. In the same way, some people are full of fear under the banner of what comes next. These are the real sufferers of the world, those whose constant movement belies the anxiety, projections, and phobias of those always trapped in the next moment. Love doesn’t exist there either, and these suffer the grave misfortune of never really living but only hoping to live. Thus, they are never satisfied under the sun. Never.

When we’re in love, we are in a constant state of the present, because we always connect with life in the moment. That means we’ve found our way to the presence of God, wherein there exist the wonderful attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Filled with all of this, it’s no wonder we feel so good. Being in love can become a lasting framework for truly living in the moment. What begins as a conscious decision evolves to a kind of automatic pilot in our daily lives. We look and feel younger, because we aren’t wasting our energy with things like regret, remorse, sadness, grudges, and anger of the past, or on the fearful, nervous, anxious terrors of the future.

Trust me, the present is a realm wherein you want settle.

When we give love to others, it triggers a response from the wellspring that floods us with wellness. We find it astonishing and amazing, especially at first. We tend to say things like, “She LOVES me, and I’m loving her back,” or “Her love makes me feel so good.” What we cannot see, however, is that it is the simple and innocent act of giving of ourselves to another that triggers the inbound flow from the source of all love, because that source knows we’re giving away what we had in the last moment.

So, the presence of love in our hearts is a response from the universe to our acts of giving it away to others.

Acknowledging this spiritual truth is the first step to realizing it in our lives, but there remains one overwhelming and perplexing internal dispute that must be settled. We are taught in scripture to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and this is a great stumbling block for many. If we were to ask for a show of hands from those who genuinely love themselves, there would be only a few in the crowd. Our inability to love ourselves reveals the deep darkness of ego-centricity, where we either think of ourselves as better than — or worse than — everybody else. For these poor souls, the best they can do is experience brief glimpses of what would be available to them if they only loved themselves.

It also naturally follows that those who cannot love themselves are self-defeated and incapable of truly loving others unless it somehow reflects back on them or the persona that they live. Folks, we were made to love ourselves, regardless of our reactions to various events that have shaped our character. All sorts of remarkable things happen when we love ourselves, because we can only do so in the present. Past events may have produced ugly reactions, but they hold no power over the present. Why is it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves? Because we “know” we don’t deserve it, so we cling to the shame and worthlessness that accompanied those past events. We drag self-protection forward, and its influences can drive us to addiction and a whole host of psychological problems.

The real problem is we have separated ourselves — blocked ourselves even — from the love of God that exists in the present. Regardless of the mental issue, the cure is the same, which is to come to love ourselves. It’s the gate that leads to life’s safe harbor for the human race.

The anti-love is self-pity, especially in discussions of self-love, for the fact here is that both cannot exist at the same time within humans. Show me a person who speaks of their troubles with patience, and I’ll show you somebody who suffers from a lack of self-love.

The ego draws attention to itself, while love flows via our authentic selves. It’s a trap, precisely because it’s brought to us by the same evil that’s existed from the beginning. That we are worthless seems so rational and logical in our minds, but it’s deliberately designed to hide us from the truth that we are entirely worthy as human beings. This evil also hides the fallen nature of humankind, which has always included our inability to be perfect and our propensity toward mistakes, including errors already committed. These sad people are in a constant struggle to be perfect, because, in their minds, mistakes are reserved for those who are lovable and not for those who are unlovable. This struggle is very real. We look around us and assume the happiness of others, but deep inside don’t believe it is for us.

Deny, avoid, ignore and blame; these are the four cornerstones of the life that awaits for those who cannot love themselves.

People pleasing is not love but a passive-aggressive response to feelings of inferiority, unworthiness, and other lies of the ego. Needing to liked is a cheap substitute for loving oneself. Likewise, the need to control others is birthed from the same source. Dominate or depend. Those are the only choices for such who are incapable of living in the present and all because self-love has been abdicated in the name of self-hatred.

We need to step into the flow of life in the moment, where there are no struggles, only opportunities to demonstrate our faith. We cease all of our wars and battles. We can’t believe our way into good behavior, because that puts the onus back on us. We receive; we accept; we relax; we are unafraid; and we are free to love, ourselves and others.

This is the wonderful and free cure for many of the afflictions that rock our daily lives. Love is the great minimizer of pain. It’s the answer to questions unasked and the balm for our miseries. To give love, we must have love, and in that process, we are healed.

Love isn’t just important; it’s the only thing we truly need to enjoy the day-to-day existence of life under the sun.