I take issue with the idea that if I do not love myself, I cannot love others. Mostly because I have always struggled to love myself, but others are easy. I tend to forgive them for things I would never forgive myself for. I give them second chances where I give myself recrimination, and no matter how often I’m told to look in the mirror and find something about myself I like, it always seems like a thin layer of icing on a nasty cake of self-loathing. I
judge myself by what I know I’m capable of, but I judge others by their actions. In all my striving to be ‘good enough’ and ‘worthy’ of time, attention, and love, there is no rest, no peace.
So learning to be kind to myself is an ongoing journey. I have learned that it is necessary for me to be kind to myself if I am to be fully present and loving to others. The rancor and bitterness I launch at myself for failing to live up to my, or someone else’s standards, leaks out. It contaminates the wellspring of my soul and spills out unbidden. It is not that I don’t love others. I do – terribly! But not well. When I hold myself to difficult standards – engaging in one self-improvement program after another – my center shifts. I move from the peace and love of God to ego-based striving and anxiety. I dwell in fear when I place my evaluation of my worth before God’s. Momentarily, it does help me feel ‘in control,’ as if I might finally achieve being loved. But in the end, it just doesn’t work. The goalposts continue to move off into the distance and there is no rest, no peace.
Surrendering my self-evaluation to God’s evaluation is just plain scary. It’s a depth of surrender I didn’t know I had; and to be honest, I find it hard to maintain. One trip to buy new jeans will bring it all back. Remembering in the depth of my bones that Love has created me like itself, and that nothing I or anyone else can do will ever separate me from the love of God in Jesus Christ, that is the beginning of peace and kindness. It is the only place I can rest. It is the knowledge that I have been created good, that I am enough, I have enough, and in this I find my center, I am grounded and able to be present in a loving and kind way. It is only there that I can really forgive those who have hurt me, abandoned me, or betrayed me; because it is only there that these actions are trumped by Love.
I do not need to manufacture self-love, singing my own praises or finding something, anything, that I can admire about myself. I need only surrender my self-evaluation and my ego-based desire to earn love. Instead of gazing upon myself in the hopes that it will all be OK, I need only let God gaze upon me and accept God’s love. Love has created me like itself, long before the world taught me I was inadequate. I do not have to love myself in order to love others. I was created to love, but my love will be incomplete until I rest deeply in God, and with great humility and surrender, accept that I am wholly loved. It is in accepting that I am loved wholly and completely and resting in this, that I can practice great kindness both for myself and others.