Love Your Neighbor as You Love YOURSELF

For the record, I disagree conceptually with caps lock, particularly in blog titles, but I have not yet figured out how to italicize in the title bar. My newbie-ness is showing, and I apologize.

 

But I’m not here to talk about typeface. Originally I was going to use today’s post as a sort of flippant brainstorming of things I can do while I’m in this body shape which will be less plausible when I achieve my new, goal body…but then George Takei posted this on his Facebook today, and my plans changed:

 

How much do I love this?

 

(You can find George’s post at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=334338483262278&set=a.223098324386295.105971.205344452828349&type=1&theater. If you don’t already follow him, you should really go do that. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, lifestyle, orientation, etc, he appears to have an inside track to the most hilarious–and sometimes touching–stuff on the Internet.)

 

I’d been thinking about love lately anyway, and this got those mental hamsters right back onto their wheels. It had all started because I was thinking about my newest niece, Princess A.

 

Princess A lives in California with her Mommy and Daddy and big brother, the hilarious and adorable Mr. S. The Princess is about 8 months old now; but since nobody has invented teleportation yet and since California is pretty much exactly half a continent away, I haven’t had the chance to meet her yet. I’ve seen videos, and know that she’s a cutie patootie (her parents do good work!), but we’ve never met in person, at least not so far.

 

But that has absolutely no impact on the fact that I love this child with all my heart (interestingly, the human heart has the capacity to love lots of people “with all my heart”–apparently there are more hearts in there than medical science has noticed). I would take a bullet for this child. I would chew through somebody’s throat with my teeth if they tried to hurt her. I would throw every single one of you directly under the bus to keep her safe and happy (no offense, but, y’know, she’s kin). I haven’t even seen this child in person, and I still love her with every fiber of my being, just because.

 

And that’s how I’ve felt with all my nieces and nephews. We love them automatically, sight unseen; we love them when they’re too little to do anything other than eat, sleep, cry, and stink up the room; we love them as they get older and turn into raging hoodlums (it’s hard being two years old!); we love them when they triumph and when they fail miserably, and we love them just because they gave it a good effort, even if we can’t make heads or tails out of what they just drew, even if they came in dead last in the footrace on field day, even if it took them 946 tries to pass the test to get their next karate belt. We love them because, we love them despite, and we love them every way in between.

 

So why, for the love of all that is holy, is it so hard for us to extend that same unconditional love to ourselves? I know we’re capable of loving blindly and unapologetically and completely. We do it all the time with kids, and with our partners, and with our pets. We forgive them automatically for all sorts of flaws and faults and errors, without even having to think about it. Sure, sometimes we get frustrated–it’s hard to be a two-year-old, sure, but it’s also hard to be around a two-year-old who’s having an “everything in the world is wrong and I will scream about it until further notice” moment–but really, when is the last time you looked at a six-year-old and thought “Man do I hate you for not being able to do calculus! You suck more than anyone I’ve ever met”? (Actually, if you have a date in mind in response to that question, just stop reading this blog right now and go away forever. You are not my friend, and you never will be.) Conversely, though, when is the last time you had those same sorts of hateful thoughts toward yourself?

 

So when do we get to hold onto some of that same unconditional love and aim it inward?

 

When is the last time you failed miserably at something and thought “Well, I’ll just try that again tomorrow” with absolutely no judgment? When is the last time you bought yourself a victory cake for getting good marks on your report card…er, annual performance review at work? When is the last time you said, right out loud in front of god and everybody, that you were proud of yourself for something? For that matter, when is the last time you bragged about yourself at all, without having that weird squirmy feeling inside that perhaps you were personally destroying the entire basis of polite human interaction?

 

So here’s your challenge for today: for one day, try thinking of yourself as a totally separate human being. Think of yourself as your own child, or your own niece/nephew, or your own grandchild, or whatever relationship works best for you. How would you describe yourself? How much slack would you give yourself? Would you forgive yourself for not looking impeccable, for not doing everything on your to-do list to perfection, for forgetting to take the trash out, for accidentally dropping your fork at dinner? Would you be proud of your efforts, and the progress you’ve made so far in life? How much would you think you rock?

 

How much would you love yourself if you weren’t you?

 

And here’s another way to look at it: if your default setting is self-loathing, maybe that whole “love your neighbor as you love yourself” thing is why the world is at war with itself. Maybe we should try it the other way ’round: love yourself as you love your neighbor, since apparently your neighbor (or your niece, or your new baby) is eligible for all the forgiveness and unconditional love in the world but somehow you’re not.

 

I’m just sayin’, man, that we are, in fact, capable of reckless, unapologetic love–we prove it time and time again by loving other people so much it makes our brains explode. We can do it. The possibility is there. You just have to claim some for yourself.

 

…Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go draw something and hang it immediately on the refrigerator, because whatever it is, it will be awesome.

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