“love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus
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it’s always funny to me how we focus on the first parts of this passage with a vengeance–love God, love others. but the one that gets dismissed all of the time is that Jesus tells us to “love others as ourselves.” maybe that’s why so much of the world is so messed up–we are actually doing that. passing on to others what we feel inside. and my experience has been that most people i know don’t like themselves, let alone love themselves. in fact, i will go so far as saying that many people who have been christians for a long, long time actually hate themselves.
and i think this is an important thing that’s wrong with the world & the church, really. we have not been taught properly how to really get at the root of so much of our problem–how we really feel about ourselves.
about 4 1/2 years ago i started a monthly group that i originally called “ex good christian women breakfast club.” it’s a long story on how it’s evolved but it’s an eclectic group of women who for all kinds of reasons have rocked the typical-christian-woman-boat. it’s one of my favorite things to do each month & every time we are done i am left with a little more courage, a little more hope, a little more challenge. each time a different friend facilitates, and last month was a focus on how we actually treat ourselves. we shared how we would never in a million years say to our friends what we say to ourselves. i love what anne lamott says–“my mind is a bad neighborhood, i try not to go in there alone.” my friend had us take a little time and come up with some encouraging words for ourselves, things we needed to consider to love ourselves better, to be kinder & gentler to ourselves. everyone hemmed and hawed and could think of all kinds of great things to say to other people. but to ourselves, well, that’s a different story.
we figured it out. everyone stretched and found things to remind themselves about. this wasn’t just an exercise in affirmations. it is a far deeper thing. it is recognizing & respecting how bad of friends so many of us are to ourselves. i believe that men & women alike can be really toxic, unsafe, ugly friends to ourselves. and out of our love for ourselves comes our real love for our neighbor. i have no doubt that in my journey as i have come to love & accept myself more freely & grace-ful-ly, i have been able to offer the same thing to others better. this is a life-long process, and i believe fully that this side of heaven, i will always struggle with this. i will never fully be able to understand God’s love for me and what that really says about who i am. but i truly believe this: pure God-inspired self-love isn’t a bad thing or selfish or self-centered like so many of us have been taught. and it doesn’t come in a rush because someone tosses a bible verse out at us and tells us we should believe it. it is far more complex than that. i think healing can come, but it doesn’t come easy or cheap and it isn’t a once and for all. hopefully we’re always on a journey toward deeper understanding of who we really are & what that really means. i do believe so much healing comes from true community & a container to explore the truth of how we really feel about ourselves instead of hiding & pretending.
this is why i feel so dedicated to safe pockets of healing community. it’s not about naval-gazing and self-centeredness, like i have heard so many church-leaders say along the way. loving ourselves is how we love others. so the better we take care of ourselves, the more hope, love, peace, joy, kindness, compassion we can offer the world. the better friends we can be to ourselves, the better friends we can be to others.
the world is not crying out for more self-hatred. the world is crying out for compassion & kindness, for better friends. i truly believe we can bring much more of it to our friends, our family, our neighbors, the world if we can offer much more of it to ourselves first.
so here’s what i put in my kindness box, some little reminders that i really need in my life right now. nothing earth-shattering, some might seem so simple to you; but for me, the harshness-to-myself comes a lot easier than kindness…
- just show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome
- so what?
- who you are in your worst moment is not who you really are
- just laugh.
- let it go.
- tomorrow is a new day, thank God!
- who cares what they think?
- just breathe.
- what would you tell your friend right now?
- “change the channel”
- be gentle with yourself
- you are loved just how you are
- don’t take yourself too seriously
- hey, you should be proud of yourself for even trying!
- listen to your body!!!!
what do you need to put in yours? what words of encouragement, kindness, reminder-to-love-yourself-well-and-be-a-good-friend-to-yourself-so-you-can-love-others-well-too do you need to keep in front of you right now?