If you’ve ever been told, “Love your neighbor as yourself” as part of a demonstration about being less
selfish raise your hands. *thousands of hands go up* Yep. That’s what I thought. So before you tune out
because your emotional baggage is screaming at you to run away from this church lecture HANG
TIGHT. I have a new way to look at this that will help unpack those bags.
What’s the whole phrase? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So, love other people the way that you love
you. Break it down further; treat people the way you treat yourself. When you look at that realistically it
can get weird real quick because I for one am not super nice to myself all the time.
This means that I would have told my friend that I think she’s not worth that paycheck. And I would have
told my dearest love that his hard work isn’t going to actually make a difference in the world. I would
also have NOT forgiven my friend for being late, and I would hold all my friends to impossibly high
standards of perfection. The concept is not, “Love your neighbor and loath yourself.” Nor is it, “Loath
your neighbor and love yourself,” because without the balance of love breeding love you won’t have
love to give to the people around you.
UH YEAH, GUYS. There are two crucial concepts in this deceptively simple sentence: selflessness coupled
with self-care. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That means in order to be ABLE to love other people you
have to love you. I’ll wait while you think on that a sec.
It’s a loop. A cycle. A full circle of behaviors. If you want to be forgiven first you must forgive yourself so
you can then forgive others so that you can then be forgiven. If you want to be loved first you must love
yourself so that you can then love others that you can then be loved. I mean really, take that sentence
and insert any of those lovely feels we as humans crave and aspire to.
Unpack that bag of resentment, failure, shame, and hopelessness that so many have associated with
“Love your neighbor as yourself” because I am giving you permission to recycle it into a life-giving
mantra. As you go through your day notice your response to people: defensiveness, anger, resentment,
gratitude, love. Then find where in yourself those feelings and sensations trigger from. NOW you have a
fighting chance at identifying where you get to offer yourself love because without loving yourself you
can’t love your neighbor.
Love on your hurts, your wounds, your dark places and cultivate joy by living a life full of love for
everyone; yourself included.