April 14, 2014
**A bonus L post—because it needed to be written.**
L is for…
…love. Love for myself, to be exact.
Don’t say it. I know. That sounds really stupid. That sounds like a narcissistic version of a cheesy 80’s love ballad. Didn’t Whitney sing one like that? “The Greatest Love of All is happening to meeeeee”…and it’s my love for meeeeee!
In fact, here are lyrics to the chorus:
“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all”
Well…. Any self-respecting Christian reading right now is probably having a brisk case of the shudders. They may like Whitney (I do, too!), and they may like the tune (I admit it was catchy), but…they know that the greatest love of all is God’s love for us…and the second greatest love—the one we’re supposed to exhibit—is “to love the Lord our God with all our hearts,” and the third one is “to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
“Jesus, then Others, then You—what a wonderful way to spell joy,” goes the old Bible Club chorus. (Yes, I’m gagging a just a little bit right now. All I can hear is “Aunt Ruth’s” voice crooning it loudly. It’s not a bad sentiment; I suppose I’m just feeling a little jaded tonight.)
But wait a minute. Did you see it? “As ourselves.” I’ve written here before about my counselor’s profound revelation: “Jesus is not an asshole! He doesn’t tell you do things you’re not capable of doing! If he said to love your neighbor as yourself, then it is possible to love your neighbor, and it is possible to love yourself!”
OK, that’s problematic for me.
I mean, come on. Isn’t self-love just plain selfish? (And doesn’t “self-love” sound like something else?? Bahahaha!) Isn’t love of self just conceited at best, or narcissistic at worst? Won’t it lead to self-enabling and improved excuse-making and unnecessary or unhelpful latitude?
Besides, what does it mean to love yourself? What does that even look like?
Well, what do I do when I love someone else?
- I put that person first, place that person’s needs before mine.
- I think about that person often (or all the time, if it’s that kind of love).
- I check in with that person regularly, if not often.
- I think of ways to make that person happy.
- I give thoughtful gifts to that person.
- I listen to that person.
- I work to speak that person’s love language, not just my own.
- I speak kindly to that person.
- I exercise greater, longer patience with that person than I might with others.
- I forgive that person’s offenses.
- I give consideration to that person’s opinions.
- I go out of my way for that person, regarding inconvenience as not inconvenient at all.
- I pray for that person.
- I am attuned to that person’s wants and moods.
- I work to ensure the general health of that person, insofar as I have any influence over it.
- I work toward relentless honesty with that person.
- I encourage and support that person.
- I take some delight in that person.
- Maybe I even write that person poetry to demonstrate my love.
Next question is, do I do any these things for myself? I’m confident we all know the answer to that one.
As my friend Liz often says, “I don’t even make it onto my own priority list.” I sometimes adapt that to, “I don’t even make my onto my own to-do list.”
However, I think I’ve taken a few steps this year toward helping myself in this direction.
I’ve loved myself by attending to my own health, seeing doctors (which I hate doing), changing my diet to one of better content with some attention to moderation, resuming my yoga practice, even doing some personal training at a nearby gym. I even used my massage gift cards that I was hoarding for “when I really need it,” and when those were gone, I started paying for my own monthly massage.
And dammit if loving myself to health isn’t expensive!
This A to Z blog challenge has also provided a good opportunity for me to practice correcting my own self-talk. I would never talk to other people—even people I’m not terribly fond of—the way I talk to myself…and certainly not to those I love.
If God loves me—and this is a premise I have to accept—then who am I to tell God he’s wrong? Who am I to tell him that there are things about me that he just doesn’t know, things that should exempt me from his love? How naïve.
OK, self…can we get together for coffee, or maybe dinner?