“If we look to the bottom of the raging dissatisfaction that characterizes so many people today, chances are it all goes back to a dislike of self that has a way of poisoning everything else one perceives.”
John R. Claypool, The Preaching Event
The way we treat ourselves is the way we will treat others. The counsel of Jesus to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” both begin with a love for the self as a unique and wonderful creation of God. We often miss the fact that we have to respect ourselves before we can respect others. In order to love our neighbors, following Jesus’ advice, we first have to drop the harsh and often hostile manner with which we treat ourselves.
The recognition that you will only be able to love your neighbor as you learn to love yourself is an important insight into the words of Jesus. The pattern you develop in dealing with the person you deal with most often, — yourself — becomes the pattern by which you will begin to relate to everyone else. If you don’t like yourself and are critical of yourself at every juncture, you begin to see others only in a critical way.
The hostile, critical, dissatisfied way we treat others becomes the way we perceive and begin to act toward others. One escape is to try to find heroes whom we imagine are not like us. They are super-humans without our flaws and imperfections. “If only we could be like so and so,” we say. And so, in our raging dissatisfaction with ourselves we try to become someone else, rather than learning to love the person we are.
The parables of Jesus are wonderfully good news for us if we could truly believe that what Jesus says is true. His parables tell of a God who accepts all of us as we are, without condition, in spite of who we are and where we have been. The doors to God’s acceptance are flung wide open. All are invited to enter, the poor, the marginalized, the unworthy—even you. Entrance is free and welcome to all who will enter. The parables tell of a God who is even willing to come out and search for the lost, the wayward, and the lonely. The doors to God’s acceptance of whom we are right now, in spite of our flaws, are open to all.
Why do so few go in through these doors? Is it because, in our critical way of dealing with ourselves, we know ourselves to be unworthy, undeserving of that kind of love—the love we really need?
What would happen if you believed these stories just for a minute and, foolish as it might seem, you went in? You might find that knowing you are loved and accepted will allow you to be a little easier on yourself. At the same time, you may become less critical of others and more willing to love them as you love yourself.