Why You Must Love Yourself Before Loving Your Neighbor | A Rose in Bloom

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself" -Matthew 22:39

Love. It’s such a strong word with a different yet similar definition for everyone. It’s the only word with the power to transform us into something beautiful or tear us to pieces. When most people are asked to describe love, they will almost always describe a someone near and dear to their heart. This is a beautiful thing yet insufficient to our needs as human beings. Love encompasses so much more than we could ever fathom on a day to day basis. In fact, most people forget about one of the most important loves in life: themselves.

Rarely does anyone hear the word “love” with themselves in mind. Love is an essential element in all cultures and religions. Considering the quote above though, perhaps we have oversimplified the subject. Of course every human has a social responsibility to make other humans feel like they matter. This is not up for debate. After all, we are all wandering through winding, rough paths doing the best we know how so if we could all show some support for our fellow man, the world would be a better place. However, have you ever considered that perhaps, in order to show your love for others, you must first love yourself? 

When asked if you loved yourself, I am certain that many of you would feel like cowering into the pit of your belly, sinking from fear and confusion. When asked if we love who we are today (not who we want to be, or what we once were), it can feel like a fast food bag rolling through an empty parking lot – we're out of place with no direction home. We have no idea how to answer that question because we want to love ourselves, but at the same time do not want to appear self absorbed. Why is it that we associate a healthy self-esteem with vanity and arrogance? In an effort to weaken the human race, society has whispered from ear to ear the lie that self-deprecation somehow makes you more virtuous. This is just not true. After all, how can you help your brother remove the splinter from his eye when you have a plank in your own? Perpetually being expected to help with the splinter before you remove your plank will harbor Resentment for your friends, your family, and your community. The bricks at your base holding you up will start to crack and crumble. Resentment is a powerful evil.

With the arrival of Resentment, its friend Bitterness begins to chip away at our base, then our walls, and soon the roof caves in and we love no one at all. Instead of smiling at strangers in coffee shops, we forget to notice the world. We don't thank the person holding the door or the person preparing our latte. Instead, we forget to notice any of the beautiful imperfections that compose the score of life and we lose our love altogether.

You see, love must be practiced, just like a pianist will practice the gentle touch of the keys or a dancer will practice her balance. There is no better test subject than yourself. When we can wake up in the morning and can’t wait to see what little joys we can find hidden in our daily tangles, we are able to comb them away so others can enjoy the treasure. Beginning in this heartbeat, decide that you are worth your own love. Practice loving yourself with each breath and begin to feel it radiating from your body. Only when we all learn to love ourselves can we stretch and weave this world into the wonderful blanket that is love.

Because really, love is all that matters.

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