I was struck by one passage in which someone told the author he was wrong; that we must love others first and then ourselves. The author pointed out that was backwards, but it made me realize that statement was just another example of how we misuse Scripture to meet our own biases. (It's not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money. Big difference.)
We are told that we must love our neighbor as ourself. It doesn't say to love ourself as we love our neighbor. The love of self has to come first, sort of like putting on the oxygen mask before assisting others. If we don't love ourselves, we really can't love others.
Now I'm well aware of this intellectually, but emotionally it's another story. I've been so inculcated to focus on sacrifice and suffering (a theme I explore in my latest book, Facing Adversity with Grace, which is now available both as a paperback and Kindle!), it's hard for me to really understand what loving myself looks and feels like.
I know what it means to put others first, to sacrifice for them, because I've been taught well how to do that. But me? I don't really know how to go about doing it. I do things for myself, but is that really the same as loving myself?
So I'm starting by asking the question: Is this really the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?
- Is eating that delicious and tempting cherry twizler the most loving thing or would an apple be more loving?
- Is letting the dishes go another day because I'm worn out the most loving thing or would having a clean kitchen in the morning be more loving?
- Is taking time to play the most loving thing for me right now or is doing the laundry?
- Is visiting a friend the most loving thing or should I be praying and meditating?
The answers are usually quite clear, but they are beginning to surprise me, since I tend to assume the hardest, most difficult thing I don't want to do is always the right response. I'm starting, slowly, to have a bit more compassion for myself. Which may be the beginning of learning what true self-love looks like.