When We Love Ouselves First

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton

If I only understood this quote many years ago, it would have possibly made my love life a lot less complex, but then again I can’t say I would change a thing I have been through because with all of the struggles and triumphs I have undergone, I truly am a better man for each dark and light season. But I do appreciate the quote nonetheless, because it resonates with a significant part of who I am.

That part of me that simply longed to know thyself, and then chose to accept that self, despite his present condition. A condition that intertwined in every part of my life and thought process. To the degree that it impacted my relationships with others, but especially the one I was having with my myself.

I believe we will always be our own worst enemy. I suppose it’s inherent to recognize our own flaws before we can recognize our own beauty. Call it human nature? I can’t say I understand why this is true yet, but I see in little kids even before they become cognizant of this self-defeating behavior.

Could it be, this is why the golden rule of life – “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” is so critical to a life that is to be filled with joy in-spite of the perpetual pain that attempts to invade our spaces daily? Could it also be true that when we fail to truly love ourselves, that “love” we give to another only perpetuates the brokenness that lives within us?

As children who grow up to become adults who haven’t truly learned to love themselves unconditionally, will only continue to see imperfections in others and criticize them, not fully realizing the core issue lies within themselves first.

Have you ever found yourself picking someone a part for what they could not do, or fell short on? You know the one person who is close to you, who just can’t seem to get anything right, at least in your eyes? At each turn they seem to fail you, miss the mark or consistently screw up. Now I am not speaking of a person who has not been honest or has a history of deceit in your life, but someone who actually try’s hard, however they seem to always find themselves on your displeasurable short list.

Of course people should take responsibility for their actions and own the parts they play when they offend others, because excuses quickly fall to the ground and can only germinate discord, but what happens when it is not that? What happens when it is us looking for a reason to be critical? What happens when it is us simply holding on to something just because we can? What happens when we’re failing to see our own short-comings?

What happens is we stifle our ability to grow, heal and accept life for what it currently is. What it currently is, is probably not perfect or even close to ideal, but it is your life. One you must accept before you can change it, but if we find ourselves critically examining the lives of others and their imperfections before we’re looking within, we’re missing a great opportunity to transform our own lives and how we love.

I choose to live free from bondage. The bondage that is self-imposed and the bondage that others attempt to ensnare me with. I refuse to own any of it. What I choose to own is my life, and all that it entails. The good, the bad and especially the ugly. It is who I am (at least for now). And when I can learn to embrace who I am today, my tomorrow has a chance to be better, brighter and less entangled with unnecessary baggage. Then I can see the world and those close to me, not as flawed individuals, but as people that need grace, mercy and love as I do.

Keep Pressing,
Hank G

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