Many people, both in and out of the church, are familiar with the two greatest commandments as taught by Jesus: "You shall love God with all your heart, and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." Two commandments, but three actions. Love God, Love your neighbor, and love yourself. Loving yourself has been the subject of countless writings, especially in the 20th century, but how exactly can we do that, and how does someone that doesn't love their self get there? I'll take a look at a few things in this post that have been helpful to me, and hopefully to you as well.
What's the first thing we do when we fall in love with someone and want them to fall in love with us? Spend as much time as we can with them. We talk to them, call them, send them letters, ask them on dates, etc. We do all we can to learn their likes, dislikes, wants and needs. Sometimes, we're simply there in silence as they need a friend. These things can be turned inward to ourselves to learn how to truly love ourselves.
It can be all too easy in this world of work, the 24/7 news cycle, e-mail, Facebook, smart phones and TV to lose sight of spending simple time with ourselves. If you think you haven't missed out on this, answer this question: When is the last time I took a quiet walk in a park, forest, lakeside, etc, by myself? Or some other kind of time that was solely for yourself, and no one else. Even if you were taking pictures, walking the dog, or just exercising, was it something just for you, unencumbered by duty and responsibility and the distraction of someone else? This is something I believe is absolutely vital for our personal well-being and mental health. Even mowing the lawn can be a time to use in self-reflection (My good friend Scott, who once owned a lawn service, said that the time to think to yourself was the best part of that job.)
Following closely with that is writing. It is a bit creepy to write to yourself, but writing for yourself is a great thing to do (hence this blog.) Not the obsessive writing of a teenager about her latest crush, but the simple action of putting your deeper thoughts and reflections into written or printed words. Writings about questions that reach in to your core and out to the hearts and needs of others. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've sat down to write about a subject, only to find at the end that I was incorrect about what I thought and felt about the subject. Writing like this is a great tool to take us to the next part, learning about our true needs.
We all know our likes, dislikes, and wants, but knowing our true needs can be a very different thing entirely. Sometimes our wants are diametrically opposed to what we really need. Taking a look at our relationships, especially those that seem to cause us distress and discomfort can go a long way in revealing our needs to ourselves. What is it exactly that is causing the stress? What is it in this relationship that leaves me feeling empty? What can I do to change this? And what does the other person truly need? Getting a good idea of these things can bring a lot of clarity to knowing what we really need for ourselves, and there are dozens of other questions that we can ask along with these to help dig into our real needs.
And, sometimes, I've found the best thing is to simply be present in silence, as if with a friend that is grieving. Like the old Wolf Brand chili commercial went, "When is the last time you got up early to just watch the Sun rise by yourself? Well, that's too long!"