Is It Important To Love Your Neighbor As Yourself?
Loving my neighbor, loving myself
"The first and great commandment is to love the Lord with your heart, soul and mind...and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." - Matthew 22:37
I recently learned a lesson about loving my neighbor as myself.
My friend, Mary Lou, and I, went to a matinee. Before the movie started four elderly women sat kiddie corner from us. Throughout the coming attractions they continued to talk loud and to laugh non-stop.
The noise was so distracting that Mary Lou and I moved a few seats down. I complained to her, "I cannot stand to spend my hard earned money to see a movie and have it interrupted like this!"
Mary Lou was just as annoyed as I, and she agreed with me.
However, the minute the main feature began they all quieted down. I became engrossed with the film, and I forgot about my grumbling.
After the movie my friend and I ran into these four ladies in the rest room. One of the women was drying her hands next to Mary Lou. She smiled at her and remarked, "Your hair is so lovely!" Mary Lou returned the smile, and she thanked her.
At that moment we both made eye contact with the other three women who were also smiling at us. We smiled back, and we exited the ladies room.
When we got into the car, I immediately said, "I want to apologize for the way I behaved in the theatre! I acted terrible, and those women were so kind to us."
I continued, "Shame on me! They were not doing anything wrong! They were living their lives and having a wonderful time, and here I am, a Christian and a hypocrite!"
Mary Lou burst out laughing. she said, "I was so mad at them for talking I almost went up to them and told them to quiet down. Then I felt the same way you did in the ladies room!"
What an eye opener that was!
Who were these women? At that time, they were our neighbors.
Who are our neighbors? The definition of 'neighbor' in the dictionary is "fellow man;" "to be near or next to."
Our neighbors are not just those who live next door or on our block. Our neighbors are those who sit near us in restaurants, ride an elevator with us, or share the highway with us...to name a few examples.
After this incident I discovered at least eight places in the Bible where we are commanded to love not only our neighbor but ourselves as well.
For example, Mark 12:31 reads, "There is no other commandment greater than these."
So. I am to love my neighbor as myself.
How do I love myself?
It has taken me a very long time to realize that loving myself has nothing to do with my flaws, what happened in the past or even yesterday.
For years one of my major weaknesses has been guilt which began at an early age. Maybe it was an abandonment issue. My twin sister and I were adopted at age four by our grandparents on our father's side because our mother and dad moved to New York City to pursue acting, rather than raising us.
At age five I walked past a produce stand on the way home from Kindergarten. I took a bite of an apple, and I put it back. When a male classmate saw me, he shouted, "I'm going to call the cops!"
I ran home like a scared rabbit. I sat at the living room window terrified the police would show up any time.
One day I got caught picking our next door neighbor's daffodils. She told me I was a horrible child.
In third grade, standing in line to go outside I jumped up and down to see out a high window. I head butted the teacher in the face, and I knocked off her glasses. She angrily told me what an awful person I was.
I grew up starving for approval. After college, during job interviews, when questioned, I always replied with an answer I thought the person interviewing me wanted to hear. I had no courage to speak from my heart. Of course they saw right through me, and I did not get the job.
Upon reflection I learned that, over the years, I had taught people how to treat me. I never disagreed with an individual who was nasty to me or who criticized me. Instead, I hung my head. It was always me who said, "I'm sorry" even if I knew the other person was wrong.
It has been a long, strenuous journey for me to learn to love myself. However, accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior at age nineteen has been a step in the right direction.
Now I have Someone in my life who truly loves me and Who will never let me down. Christ Himself said to His Father, "I can of my own self do NOTHING."
Neither can I.
I must totally depend on the Holy Spirit Who lives in me to manifest Himself through me. Loving myself is love the SELF of the Spirit of God Who lives in me and through me.
This is great news!
I know He forgives me immediately for my mistakes because He has provided me with a great gift: a conscience. The minute I screw up (and, believe me, I do it ALOT), my conscience immediately taps me on the shoulder and makes me aware.
The event with those three women in the movie theatre is a great example. I went to Mary Lou, then God, and I asked forgiveness.
Both understood. Both loved me anyway.
Although I have not read the Bible from cover to cover, I've studied it enough to know that if I hate myself, I cannot love others.
I have to remember that, in my humanity, I will make mistakes along the way.
Loving myself consists of taking care of me first, especially my body, the temple God has placed me in. Getting my sleep. Exercising. Eating right. I've learned that if I feel good physically, it helps me to deal much better with stressful situations.
All my life I've been taught that it's self-centered to put me first and that I should put everyone and everything else ahead of me. However, while conforming to the demands of society, (even other Christians) I never got to me.
I had been so busy with meeting the expectation of others I would be too exhausted by the end of the day to do anything for myself. It finally dawned on me if I kept this up I would pass into eternity with absolutely no purpose achieved, no dreams realized, no chance to do the things I love doing.
God's command to love myself changes everything.
Each morning I take my bath. After, I immediately take my walk with my thermos of coffee. I admire the awesome sky, gaze at the trees and listen to the birds. I thank God over and over for a new day of life, and I ask Him to guide me intuitively moment by moment.
One morning on my walk I asked God, "What is life?"
His inaudible reply: "This."
On my return home I write a letter to God. Afterwards I place my finger on the name of everyone on my prayer list, and I pray for them individually (several are hub friends).
So I ask, "How important is it to love your neighbor as yourself?"
The answer: God has commanded it. Therefore, I believe it is not only important but vital.
If I don't love myself, if I don't forgive myself, I will not love or forgive others. Why? Because "others" are my neighbors, friends, family, co-workers - even strangers.
Finally, I've learned love begins with me. I sincerely hope to encourage anyone reading this hub that love also begins with you.
God bless you all, Sincerely, Sparklea :)
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