A few months ago my friend, Teri, and I got to talking about how often people who offer care to others are pretty poor caregivers of themselves. After the conversation I became intentional about paying attention, and found so much of what we talked about to be true. I found it was more difficult to models of both/and living than it was to find either/or living.
Within no time, life made me stop being so intentional about looking at everyone else and start doing some intentional looking at “me, myself and I.”
As I looked closely and reflected upon the ways I had opened myself up to the grace of caring for myself and the ways I had opened myself up to the grace of caring for others over the seven months… I realized my own proportions were pretty jacked up.
Which naturally led me to the question, “Why?”
Part of the Sabbatical journey for me is wrestling with the question of “why” for my life and seeking the grace of God to live into the answers I discover along the way.
Before leaving on Thursday evening, Noel (my bro from another mother) and I talked some about the Great Commandment and how often we (clergy & lay leaders of the Church) neglect to acknowledge the importance of helping people learn how to love themselves well. As we follower Christ seeking to love God and neighbor, I am learning it is also important for us to seek to love ourselves.
Allowing our deep love connection with God teach us how to love ourselves well, so we can also love our neighbor well is a good thing. This is radically different from most of what is being sold on the “Self Help” sections of your local bookstore or the dominate pounding messages of our society about how we are to see & care for ourselves financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
I think Jesus is talking about something different and sees good Agape like love for “self” as being important. He could have left “self” out of the commandment equation, but he chose to include it.
Could it be the way we love ourselves is deeply connected to the love we have for others?
Could it be that a part from a full on love affair with God and rightly loving ourselves, we will struggle hard to love our neighbor in a way that offers life?
Today, I want to sit with it and allow my pondering of it breathe something new. I want to allow the words of a writer and inspiration I rediscovered this morning to wash over me and wake me up to see what I already know.
Check them out and pray with me…
“We are taught to love ourselves, from many sources, such as the Bible, “love they neighbor as thyself” to every metaphysical teaching, yet the actual practice of it is not often or openly discussed. It’s as if we’re just supposed to do it “naturally” and not need support, permission, reminders or examples.
Most of us are practicing being outer focused first tending to the needs and requests of others before ourselves. Then somehow, it seems that there isn’t enough time left over for ourselves. That’s because we’re doing it backwards. To truly love and be friends with others, we must practice loving ourselves well and fully on a daily basis. If we don’t, we all witness and experience crabby unloved people walking around, living their lives not experiencing self-love (or loving others)….
… I think I used to feel a little scared that if I really loved myself, I’d become so self-absorbed that there wouldn’t be room for anyone else. The opposite is truly occurring and I’m steeped in self-love, friendship with myself and exquisite self-care practices that radiate out directly to the world. I keep a daily joy and gratitude journal, and fill pages with wonderful experiences and morsels of goodness. I’m always on the lookout for more, and this draws more of these kinds of experiences to me. Practicing self-friendship and love also means tending to, and being present for the times I don’t feel positive or self-loving at all….
… We are all made up of light and shadows, and many of us try to flee the shadows and stay in the light. Wanting to live in the light isn’t the problem, attempting to flee the shadows is. As long as we continue to turn away from the parts of ourselves the we judge as unworthy, unacceptable or unlovable, we will continue to experience separation and lack of love….
… So, become the most marvelous friend to yourself first. Find your broken places and gain strength there too. Practice looking into your shadows (you can use a flashlight) and become aware of how to best care for yourself during those times also, and experience loving yourself unconditionally more often….
… Turn your wide heart and loving eyes towards yourself and awaken what you already know.
You are seen.
You are known.
You are love.” SARK, Practicing Loving Ourselves
And share this beauty with those we encounter along the way… friends, family, the stranger we pass, and the neighbor (local, national and global) we may never met but our lives are deeply connected in more ways than one.
May everyone we see, including ourselves in the mirror, know…
They are seen.
They are known.
They are love.