We are loving them the way we love ourselves — which isn’t so much, actually.
That’s why we can hurt each other so badly. First we hurt ourselves, and then project our wounds onto others.
So, all this time we have been obeying Jesus’ words without realizing it.
Maybe it’s time to explore just what kind of love we are giving ourselves, and how we might align ourselves with both parts of Jesus’ great commandment. (The first part is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. Matt 22:37)
First we have to face the fact that we really can’t give others what we don’t have inside. If we don’t own it, have possession of it, we can’t give it. That only makes sense.
Thus if we don’t love ourselves, it’s impossible to love others, much as we would like to.
Our world makes this rather obvious. We give to others the disdain, disrespect and mistrust we have for ourselves — and the result is broken relationships, war, destruction, terrorism and tyranny. The list is long.
The world is our mirror. As the within, so the without.
So what is proper Self-love?
A vital aspect of proper Self-love is to love ourselves when we feel most down and most undeserving of love. We may feel ashamed or embarrassed, and definitely unworthy of love.
These are the times we need love most, and when it’s most difficult to give.
Examples are when we haven’t measured up to our expectations, or when something unjust has shattered our world and we are suffering deeply. Perhaps we see no reason to continue.
We need love in our moments of deep doubt and serious self hate.
In these times only a deep intention to love can call it forth from us.
We’ll find our growing edge in this place of discomfort and unwillingness.
The commitment I have made to love holds me responsible and tugs at me when I am most unhappy and angry. It demands me to do something helpful when I feel like a small child who deserves to be punished because of bad behavior, and I just want to sulk.
I know from experience how hard it is to love a child when they have been naughty and act so mean — when all they want to do is to kick somebody!
Because of my commitment I have been following a method that Thich Nhat Hahn teaches.
He tells us to notice when we are suffering and then hold ourselves just as if we are holding an infant.
As we do this we are to speak words inwardly to this very small and unhappy child. We say something like, “Darling, I know you’re suffering. That’s why I’m here for you.”
As I do this I take time to breathe these words and actions in. I can feel my unwillingness to receive love, and my anger and resentment.
But I do it anyway. When I’m most down on myself I speak these words silently inwardly, holding myself while slightly rocking side to side.
I find I don’t need to come up with great answers to solve the issue. Instead my work is to simply continue cradling this tiny child in my imaginary arms. Its love, not answers, that the child wants.
As I do this my world doesn’t miraculously feel lightheartedness.
Instead I feel more like a child who has been crying for a long time, and is finally picked up and held. All she can do is feel those arms holding her, gulp air, hiccup, and allow the deep crying to subside.
In this process my only job is to hold myself as tenderly as possible, while sincerely caring for this child’s suffering.
God love must do the rest.
I can nurture the seeds of love, but I can’t make them grow. (But tears do water things!)
To me this is proper Self-love, and not indulgence.
It’s not agreeing with any behavior, or naming rights or wrongs. It is simply an act of giving love where there is suffering. It’s true compassion.
Somehow doing this eases the burden of my heart. No matter how disgusting I thought I was. Even though I resist I feel a slight stirring of love, and continue cradling this child.
It’s a small act I can take which maybe doesn’t move mountains — or maybe it does. I wouldn’t know. I only know I’ve come through some disastrous times by doing this.
I have learned through experience that the energy of love dissolves anything unlike itself.
Yes, love, poured out upon any situation brings a release of tension, integration and greater harmony into life.
Out of this process, I am free to give more love to others, and this is always helpful.
If you think this might be helpful, please join me in following the suggestions of Thich Nhat Hahn.
Love is the activity of God’s grace. And that’s all we need.