For 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.
“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.