Learning to Love
"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."1
Someone else said with tongue-in-cheek, "Heaven help your neighbor if you hate yourself!" They were right.
Every normal person wants and needs loving relationships, but if we hate ourselves we are not going to experience loving relationships. We will unconsciously project our self-hatred onto others and set them up to reject us, for what we project is what we get back!
Actually, only to the degree that I have learned to love and accept myself in a healthy sense am I able to love and accept others in a healthy sense. What I hate and have rejected in myself, I will also hate and reject in others. My relationships will only ever be as healthy as I am.
Healthy self-love and acceptance isn't a prideful thing, but rather, it is learning to know and accept ourselves as we are—dark side and all. Only then are we able to change and keep growing to become healthier and more loving persons.
To grow in self-love we need to be fully known by at least one other loving and accepting person—a person who will not put us down, judge or criticize us, tell us what we should or shouldn't do, try to fix us, give unsolicited advice, or preach at us, but accept us just as we are. It is through their knowing, accepting, and loving us as we are that, little by little, we learn to love and accept ourselves. This truth cannot be over-emphasized for we can only feel loved to the degree that we are known, accepted, and loved by at least one loving, trusted person. This is not to imply that this person approves of any negative or destructive behavior. Not at all.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me at least one safe, loving and accepting person whom I can trust with my total life—dark side and all—and through their loving acceptance of me, help me to learn to love and accept myself as you love and accept me, so I can truly love you with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as you want me to. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).