Share Your Faith - Feb 2020
Prompt: It can be far more difficult to love yourself than to love others. Have you ever experienced this? Did you overcome it? If so, how?
The difference between infatuation and love is that love requires knowledge. I was infatuated with my 5th grade teacher, Mr. McNeil. He was a Christopher Reeve look-alike. I didn’t love him because I didn’t “know” him. Until my mid-30s I didn’t know myself any better than I knew Mr. McNeil. Until then, I was much less interested in knowing myself than I was in knowing Mr. McNeil. I never even knew his first name. According to my mother, who was a teacher in the same school, he wasn’t even a very good teacher!
I wasn’t interested in knowing myself because I didn’t see myself as having any worth. The first light in that darkness came on a retreat when we were asked to meditate on Psalm 139. I realized that God knew every detail about mypast, my present and my future. He knew EVERYTHING about me but still loved me enough to create me, to send His son Jesus to die for me and to draw me into a loving friendship.
As I grew in my spiritual life and received guidance from wise mentors, I came to see so much in myself that was good and precious. I came to realize that who I am in His eyes and His perception of me is true, that anything contrary to that, I must ignore as false and irrelevant. I know myself far more intimately than I ever did before. I don’t like some of my habits and patterns of reacting; however I do love myself. This frees me to love others as they are, not for the affirmation they may give me.
He created me and everyone else with a purpose and a destiny. We are not accidental bundles of chemicals. We are persons whom God created with the capacity to have a relationship with Him, having the freedom to choose a path that draws me to union with Him or one that leads away from His goodness, beauty, truth and love.
If everyone has the dignity of being created by God who loves each one and wants all of us to be members of His family, then He obviously wants us to love each other. It’s harder to love some people than others. With the experiences that some people have gone through, self-love would require a miracle of inner healing. If we are deeply wounded, we are no more capable of loving others than we are of loving ourselves. Most of us are usually more willing to extend kindness to others than to ourselves. How we talk to ourselves provides plenty of evidence for this.
I know what it’s like to despise myself so much that I avoided mirrors. I went from that place to one of neutral indifference. God brought profound healing to my soul through the affirmation of some people and through the prayer ministry of others. Most profoundly He has healed me through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and especially through receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.