For years I was confused by the bible verse – Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
As a child I was scolded, both at home and at school, if I tarried too long in front of a mirror. I was chided if someone gave me a compliment, warned against the evils of vanity, pride, and egoism. I grew up embarrassed and ashamed. How then was I to love others the way I loved myself when I didn’t love myself very much?
Thank goodness for my stubborn streak (or better yet, my resilience); it sheltered the little self-esteem that kept me going. It questioned why one side of the equation did not equal the other. How come I could appreciate the innate goodness of another person and not see it in myself?
First, I examined myself, truly looked at who I was when no one was watching (or making fun of me), and I assessed what I liked (and didn’t) about the person called “me.” I learned to nurture the good before I could nurture anyone else. I had to value who I was before I could truly value others.
Throughout my childhood I took abuse because I was intelligent and smart (two separate traits but they complement each other); I had a strong sense of right and wrong and I defended my stand; I was industrious, wanting more from life than the ordinary. I wanted a college degree, a career, and a happy, loving life. All three were a struggle.
Finally, I admitted to myself – vanity, pride, and egoism be damned – all this added up to one thing - I was a good woman. My faults were outweighed by my strengths.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It is easier to give to another when you know that what you have to offer has value. Your time, your talent, your treasure is valuable, and you chose with whom you share it. It is easier to recognize the potential in others when you see yourself in them. You relate to their struggle and hesitancy. It is easier to care for others when you care for yourself.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself is easier when your soul flourishes with love.