Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Self Love

Once again I find myself so aware of the importance of self-love or self-compassion.  We all have our good, bad, and messy parts and yet it is so easy to be tolerant of others who are less than we would hope and yet we remain intolerant of our own humanity.  I like the above quote from St. Augustine because it reminds me that in the sequence of the great commandment loving others comes with the phrase “AS YOURSELF”.  Scripture invites us to love others as we love ourselves and yet perhaps that is where the challenge in life really lies.  When we love ourselves we’re truly freed of the burden of “needing” love so desperately from everyone else.  Loving ourselves is what frees us to be in healthy relationships with everyone else.  And yet we need to find that place in our heart that has not just a tolerance for our own humanity but a willingness to love ourselves with every fiber of our humanity.
Clearly I say more negative things to myself than positive.  My spiritual director has been inviting me to a bit more self-compassion.  I have been observing my self-talk for a month or so and, sure enough, it’s filled with a litany that can go on and on, filling me with all sorts of cruel words:  too ashamed, too fat, too wordy, too boring, too slow, too judgmental, and so on.  Self-love obviously moves on a continuum but the cruelty with which we treat ourselves might call us to a change of heart.  I am beginning to look at self-compassion as prayer.  If God has made me, and my desire is to praise and love God, then there is no better place to begin than in loving the self that God has created.  If I am to be compassionate and loving toward others as God calls me to be than I first have to learn how to be loving and compassionate to myself.  So, I have a new prayer practice.  I want to affirm within myself something good each day so that I can identify the beauty that God sees within me.  I want to surround myself with people who can see goodness and love within me so that I can receive their love and recognize my own worth.
I know that self-love is important because I believe that since God is love, love is a creative power that surrounds me and the more I can receive it, the more I will be able to give it and the more I can spread it.  And, if I maintain this mentality, I will be able to unite with others to fill the world with deep love and compassion.   The more self-love I can provide myself the more open I will be.  And so, as I pray, I invite the inner child and the painful memory into the stillness of my prayer.  I sit and let them soak slowly in the healing love of the God who is love.  I invite my cruel litany to be transformed into a litany of affirmation and praise.  And I ask the God of love to remind me over and over about what she could possibly see as good and beauty within me and, guess what?  I think I’m beginning to see it myself (at least every now and again).  My hope is that my strategy for making self-love a prayer might work for you as well.

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