by Rozella Haydée White
I am totally, completely and passionately in love with me. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t just love myself. I am IN LOVE with myself.
This July marks six years since my divorce. It simultaneously feels like it wasn’t that long ago and like it was a lifetime ago. I am not the person who I was when I divorced my ex-husband. I am not the person I was when I was married. And I am definitely not the person I was when I met my ex-husband.
Many people of Christian faith recite the greatest commandment but leave off something – and it’s what I think is the most important part!
Recall, in the Bible, someone asks Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replies with not only the greatest commandment, but the second commandment as well. And we don’t often hear–let alone follow–that second commandment in its entirety.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matthew 22:36-39).
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Jesus doesn’t simply say love your neighbor. Jesus says, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If we don’t love ourselves, how can we claim to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
I want to love myself without hesitation, so I can better love others.
It’s been a long journey for me to come to terms with this, to come to terms with the fact that I was trying to live out the greatest commandments without loving myself. How many of us actually do love ourselves?
I recently asked friends if they love themselves. One said, “Well, I don’t hate myself.”
This gave me pause. There’s a big difference between not hating yourself and actually loving yourself. Many of us go through life simply tolerating ourselves, barely being patient with ourselves and beating ourselves up when we don’t live up to internal and external expectations. We don’t take the time to get to know ourselves, often cluttering our time and space with things that distract us from our inner thoughts, feelings and hopes.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to simply tolerate myself, I want to love this woman who is me deeply and passionately. I want to discover the things that make me uniquely me. I want to do things for myself that I enjoy. I want to take care of myself – mind, body, heart and soul – so that I can live my best life. I want to practice forgiveness with myself and lavish grace upon my very being. I want to love myself without hesitation, so I can better love others.
So many of us exist merely to survive. We don’t exist to thrive. We live to get through each day, and truth be told, sometimes it’s hard for us to get through each moment. We convince ourselves that we don’t deserve the same joy or love that others do. We spend our time focused on others, and if we are being honest with ourselves, we do this so we don’t have to focus on the sh*t of our own lives. How many of us really believe what writer Brené Brown said: “[We] are imperfect and [we] are wired for struggle, [yet we] are still worthy of love and belonging.”
Last year my best friend and I decided to switch things up. We’ve spent so much time over the years listing what we wanted in a mate! (Tell me you haven’t done that, too.) Our lists have evolved as we’ve grown up, of course. Anyway, rather than rewriting our lists for the hundredth time, we decided to write lists of how we hoped to be loved – what things someone who truly loved us would express and embody that love. And then we took it a step further.
We challenged each other to do these things for ourselves, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for us. The question we asked ourselves was: What would it look like to love myself the way I want to be loved by another? My answers included the following:
• Be emotionally supportive
• Be intellectually stimulating
• Be passionate
• Be affirming and be my biggest cheerleader
• Be physically connected
• Be truthful
• Be joyful
• Be spiritually supportive
• Engage in meaningful quality time
• Go on adventures
For so many years, I have made loving myself someone else’s job, instead of taking on this holy task myself. Now, however, I have entered a chapter of my life where this work is my singular focus. In every moment, I am committed to the practice of loving myself.
Some days are better than others. Some moments I have to remind myself that I am worthy of deep, abiding love. But here’s what I’ve learned: the more love I lavish on myself, the more love I have to share with others.
I think this is what Jesus intended when he said to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus knew that love multiplies. It does not diminish. It always finds a way and the more we nurture it, the more we have to give.
1. Why is falling in love with ourselves so difficult?
2. How might God be calling you to love yourself more fully?
3. What does it look like for you to love yourself as you would want another to love you?
4. Where in your life have you seen love multiply?
Creator God, you have created us out of love and designed us for love – love of ourselves, of others and of you. Help us to love the divine creation within each of us – to honor it, care for it and love it unapologetically. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
Rozella Haydée White is a spiritual life and leadership coach, consultant and creator, restoring hearts to wholeness while helping people live their most meaningful life. She is the owner of RHW Consulting and is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. Connect with her at www.rozellahwhite.com.