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When I was young, I grew up believing that the only reason I had any "worthiness" at all was because "Jesus died for me.” My own "righteousness, was as filthy rags." I never really got why, but I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. Guilt and fear were the great motivators. I can remember every night my siblings and I would shout our good nights through the house "Walton style" with the added and never forgotten, "I'm sorry if I made you mad today," you know, just in case we died before we woke. We believed that if we died with any "un-confessed sin on the books", we would go straight to hell!
As I grew up, I did my share of questioning and finally, as an adult was able to move away from the fear based religion of my childhood. The idea of loving "God first, others second and yourself (you filthy sinner) last" stopped making sense. When I studied for my Masters in psychology, the focus was on the importance of self-actualization --of self-worth, both for ourselves and our future clients, with an emphasis on the idea that one must first love one's self to successfully love another. I welcomed this idea, particularly given the other extreme that I grew up with.
So--for years I went to therapists and workshops and astrologers--spoke affirmations and meditated, with the purpose being, to achieve self-esteem, self-actualization, self-love and self-worth…convinced that surely if I learned to love myself I would be successful in loving another…and when "the relationship" failed (again!), I would think-- it must be because I don't love myself enough yet.
Recently, for no particular reason, I spontaneously got up, of a Sunday morning, and went to our local "new age" church. (The speaker, was using a book that I later found was written by Ecknar Easwaren in which he describes his 8-point way.) He had the nerve to call into question the whole idea that I must love myself BEFORE I can successfully love another, proposing that if we all wait until we fully love our self before loving another, not many people would love or be loved! This idea resonated in a place of truth for me and filled up a lot of my thoughts for sometime thereafter.
Certainly this is not about going back to a "God first, others second, yourself last" mentality. It is for me rather about the idea that when Love moves between two people, the experience of both Self-love AND Loving the Other is amplified. It’s not that loving oneself OR another, need happen "first", but rather both manifesting more fuller in the presence of the other…
This is also, NOT about "giving myself away" or waiting for the approval of others to feel good about myself. Rather, the love I feel for my child, my lover, my friend, is a reflection of love for myself and my love for myself is a reflection of the love I experience for others. When the love energy is reflected back and forth I believe it is increased…
Perhaps if I were a more fully "realized" and enlightened human being, I would simply "choose" to love myself and that would make it true all the time, whether love from others was a part of my life or not, but I am not an enlightened being and therefore, I still grapple with it everyday. This is my process. But I am also not at all sure that complete self- love—self-reliance is the goal. As human beings we are meant to relate, meaning, be in relationship with one another.
A dear friend said to me once, "If we are serving as mirrors for one another, then we can feel good about who we are because you help me see the good parts of me…" This, I believe, is a glimpse of Divine Love.