Loving Oneself

Screen Shot 2012-09-05 at 7.59.01 AMFor many years counselors and spiritual directors have told me “You need to love yourself, Roy.” No doubt, you’ve heard it too. It’s often accompanied by the phrase “You can’t love others until you love yourself.” This by the way, is a widely accepted psycho-spiritual dictum that is not true (there are others…I’ll save them for another post). I know people, and for years I could count myself among them, who do not “love themselves” yet make choices to love others, some even heroically. It is more correct to say, the more you’re able to love and accept yourself, the better, you will love others.

I’ve always wondered how that happens. How, exactly, does one love themselves? There’s no manual for it. For years prayed, meditated and tried excruciatingly hard to “love myself” to no avail. I’ve concluded that self love and acceptance is not an intellectual, cerebral endeavor. We do not come to love and accept ourselves in a vacuum. An old African proverb says “We become who we are through other people.” It follows then, that we also must come to self love through other people. When you meet someone who truly loves themselves, you’ve met someone who has been looked at and gazed upon lovingly by people in their lives they considered to be significant. You’ve met someone who has been loved by others well enough and long enough to trust that there was something lovable, special and unique in them.

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, once said,

“In each one of us there is such a deep wound, such an urgent cry to be held, appreciated and seen as unique and valuable. The heart of each one is broken and bleeding…. An experience of being loved and accepted in community, which has become a safe place for us, allows us gradually to accept ourselves as we are, with our wounds and all the monsters. We are broken, but we are loved.”

Who are the people (or perhaps the one person) in your life that have “seen” you?

Who are the people in your life who have ignored the mountain of evidence you’ve compiled to prove you are unloveable?

Think about them. Think about what they’ve meant for you. Call them. Write them. Visit them. If necessary ask them again what they saw…see in you. Then beg God for the grace to trust what you hear. Beg God for the grace to see yourself as they see you…as God sees you.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Jeff Hedglen says:

    I was 26 when my mom died, I did not cry. I thought that was not right so I went to see a counselor. Over the course of the next 2 years I realized that I had two emotions active in my life. Anger and Laughter. I needed more options!
    Along the way I discovered that I thought I was crap and unworthy of love (though I sought it out at every turn, some of the turns were not healthy). Through brutal honesty with myself I admitted my part of the situation I found myself in, I faced my upbringing and the various “lacks” that were there (or not there), I also faced who I was at that moment and dared to dream about who I wanted to be.
    I think the greatest thing I did in those two years (and continue to do) is have the courage to be self-critical and then take steps to be better. Looking at the whole me (Not just the parts that I liked) helped me to love all of me, even the parts I did not like.
    One of the turning points was an argument I had in my head. I said: “The bad things I do make me a bad person” I replied “No they don’t” I said back “yes they do”… back and forth I went inside my head. Then I had this vision of me walking down the isle to receive communion and felt God say to me I love you the same then as when you commit your most heinous sin. And that is when I realized that what I do does not make me a good or bad person and thus determine my “lovability” My actions may be “bad” but I remain “good” in they eyes of God. (Gen 1:31) And if I am good in God’s eyes I must be good.
    That was the beginning of my ability to say to myself “I love you”

  2. Misty Hencke says:

    Roy,

    Loved this post and couldn’t agree with you more. You can most defiantly love other people and not love yourself. Sometimes it leads us to loving the wrong people but if your lucky it will be the right ones. If we can learn to view ourselves through the eyes of those that truly love and see us in the spirit that God created us, it would be impossible not to fall in love with ourselves. Thanks for sharing. Love your message!

    Misty

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