By Terri White
A well-known scripture in the Bible states that you should “love your neighbor (anyone who comes into your life) as yourself.” Challenging. Powerful. Maybe even scary. Bible believers or not, most folks attempt to practice this. It just makes the world a more civilized place.
Think about it, though. While loving some people is a breeze, others prove more difficult. We stumble around to accomplish it. We get irritated. We might act mean. Sometimes it seems impossible. Do we give up? What’s the answer to this dilemma?
The key lies in two words: “as yourself”. I firmly believe that we love others to the degree that we love ourselves. But what does that mean?
To love myself means to respect myself, to like myself, and to be honest with myself. One’s upbringing lays the foundation for self-love. If parents nurture their children in a loving and safe environment, then the children become emotionally healthy adults who love themselves. However, if parents neglect or abuse their children, these children grow up needy, lacking in self-love.
I’ve often wondered about the heinous crimes committed against people. Finally, I concluded that people harm others to the degree of their lack of self-love. The more deplorable the crime, the more lacking in self-love. In fact, it’s self-hate. Frightening, because self-loathing people commit monstrous physical and emotional harm against others every day.
However, most people experience some love in their upbringing, so they are capable of loving others in various degrees. Of course, we won’t like everyone. That’s a given. But treating others with kindness, the mark of love, remains a must for a society to flourish.
If I lack kindness toward another person, then I consider it a direct reflection of me. Like a mirror. Instead of blaming the other person, I look within to find out what I don’t love about myself. Never a comfortable process, but it works every time.
While this essay is not meant to deal with abuse, hopefully, people who have experienced those horrors can in time forgive and move forward in emotional health. However, that doesn’t mean you hang out with your abuser.
Furthermore, no one needs to associate with mean people. Not everyone is your friend. Kindly create appropriate boundaries. Kindly. Or, if you are up for the challenge, go ahead and “kill” that bully with kindness. It just might work and gain you a friend. You just might save him or her a lifetime of misery.
Life is complicated. People are imperfect. No one is spared the wounds of an angry parent, teacher, friend, or stranger. No one is spared the cruel actions of hurting people. No one.
Regardless, we all must find ways to love ourselves. Why? Because the world only thrives on love. The message of that old 1965 song, “What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love” has never been truer. Sappy? No. For when we love ourselves, then we can love others. It’s the pebble thrown into the water that ripples on, impacting the entire planet. A win-win for all.