Jesus was once asked "What is the greatest commandment?"
He famously responded by quoting the most central text of judaism, the "shema", and said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
But then he boldly added to it a not-so-famous quotation from Leviticus and said, "And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself."
For years, I thought of loving your neighbor as yourself as very logical. Surely, we are all selfish and will look out for number one on some level. Even the most selfless of us, are selfish about some things. It is therefore logical to conclude that if I could simply love God first, and then love others like I love myself, the world would be a brighter place.
But for the first time in my life, I had this kinda "aha" moment when I realized that if I don't "love myself" in healthy ways, I cease to be a good model for how to love others. I break this second commandment by Jesus by breaking the foundation clause of this sentence. When I'm not loving myself right, I can't love others right.
In the most extreme cases, it would be like asking someone who is cutting themselves, to love others like they love themselves. This would be a ridiculous premise. Or if someone is constantly looking in the mirror and telling themselves how ugly they are or jealously measuring their life against the life of everyone around them. In those cases, loving others like I love myself would be abusive and damaging. In that case, I would actually need to learn to love myself in some healthy ways before I could love others out of the overflow of that.
For me, I had to confess, that while i'm not cutting, I'm not really very good at loving myself in the way I want to love others. I'm not claiming to be selfless, but rather a little jacked up here. For example:
- I will deprive myself of sleep to "help others"
- I will say no to a planned exercise run to say yes to an "emergency" counseling need.
- I will ditch a day of doing nothing to help someone who asks.
- I will interrupt solitude to help someone who needs "just a quick thing"
- I will do a lot of things to myself I would never ever ask someone else to do to themselves.
So along with a rule of life and rest, I'm also trying to cultivate the spiritual discipline of self-care: loving myself as I want to be loved by others, so when I love others, I actually have some basis from which to do this. That seems crazy to me. But I'm starting to realize its essential really.