“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.”
I’ve had this verse in my head all day today. All day. Honestly, you’d think I would have thought about putting it in my blog sooner… Sadly, that’s not quite how my brain thinks. Better late than never, I suppose.
I remember being in youth group not too long ago, and the youth pastor kept talking to us about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. He would tell us that he knew it was difficult, and kept referencing that one time when Jesus said giving a thirsty man a drink of water was giving Him a drink of water. Or something along the lines of that… And I couldn’t help but think about how WRONG he was.
Before you burn me at the stake, hear me out. For some people, giving anything they have to someone else is like trying to paint the sky a dark shade of green. Meaning that if it happens, not only is it a surprise, something probably happened to them. Probably something unexplainable, really. There’s nothing really wrong with this at all. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing is wrong with giving something(s) to others, either.
What about the people who don’t love themselves at all? Are we supposed to just not love others, too? Are we supposed to just treat them how we treat ourselves? What do we do?
I’ll tell you what we actually do: We give them everything. You want my shirt? Okay. Oh, my lunch? Of course! I’ll even bring extra for tomorrow. Do you want me to get you some water? You borrowed my pencil? Keep it, you probably need it more, anyway.
Now, look, I’m not telling you I’m perfect. As a matter of fact, I need God and His Son so much. I’m so imperfect it’s not even funny. So, so imperfect, guys! All’s I’m saying is that I know how it is to just not love yourself as much as you should. Or could, or would if something was different. But it’s not. And nobody realizes that.
Depression makes people love themselves less. Anxiety makes people love themselves less. Self-harm, self-hate, any mental health problem really makes you love yourself less than you love others. I don’t know what God thinks about this, but I can tell you my youth Pastor’s reaction.
I remember him asking me how hard I found it to love others how I love myself. I took that to mean that I love others more than I love myself… When I explained to him that I found no difficulty with it, I didn’t include myself with depression, (at that point, I didn’t know I struggled, ), but I told him I knew people who did struggle with it. I explained that they didn’t love themselves at all, but they could love others with everything they had.
He was floored, speechless, baffled. I wish you could have seen his face when I spoke my mind since it’s so hard to explain. I don’t think he realized that some people don’t struggle with loving others, that they struggle with loving themselves.
However, I realized that I answered him incorrectly. If I could go back to that day, I would answer like this:
I could never love another human being like I love myself, I shouldn’t even love me like I love myself. Everybody, including myself, deserves to be loved so much better, to be loved so much more. It’s difficult to love yourself, sometimes. You see every flaw, every imperfection, everything terrible about you and swirl it around in your head all day long.
No breaks, no stopping.
It’s like you can’t even control your own head, when that shouldn’t even be a problem.
Loving yourself for some is just like loving your neighbors for others; it’s a project, something you have to force yourself to work at. It’s a project for me, to say the least. Do you know what it’s like to yell at the mirror, trying to convince yourself that you’re actually gorgeous? Or what it’s like to look at yourself, tears streaming down your face, hearing over and over again in your head how you’re not good enough? Maybe you know what it’s like to look back and realize how broken you actually are?
I pray to God every damn day that you don’t.
I don’t know how that minuscule speech would be taken, and I probably won’t ever know. I feel better having said it, though, which makes every word worth it.
For whatever it’s worth, especially for those of us who can’t love ourselves like we deserve to be loved, please realize that God loves you. He loved you before you even existed. He’s loved you for forever. God loves each and every one of His children INSPITE of anything. He may not agree, which is neither here nor there, but that has nothing to do with how much He loves you. His love for you is greater than the number of stars. And which of you can number the stars?