The song, “The Greatest Love of All” actually had it right. When religion was the guide of my life, I was told to love God first. However, I’m going to share with you one of the most important things you’ll ever learn — if you haven’t learned it already:
You cannot give what you don’t have.
How can you share something experientially with someone that you, yourself, haven’t experienced?
I cannot over-stress the importance of self-love. I believe it is the lack of self-love that leads to the bulk of humanity’s ailments.
As I write this book, I’m writing the follow-up to my first book, “Deconstructing Religion” where I will dedicate significant thought to how religion is rooted in self-abasement and self-deprecation but for now, suffice it to say, you have to get over, get past, get under, get around, get through, or get anything like self-hatred.
Let me start by saying that you are loved and valued. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you’ve done, or what your circumstances are, you are a unique, wonderful, and beautiful creation. There is nothing in the world like you and there will never be anything else like you. You are unique and a masterpiece of the universe. As a masterpiece of the universe, you are entitled to master the peace of the universe within your sphere of life!
Understand, none of what I just said is new or original. However, if you’re reading this, you are looking to experience life anew through love — that means you not only need to hear this, you need to fully embrace this. As a matter of fact, if you do not deeply, passionately, intimately, unconditionally, love yourself, congratulations! You’re in the right place.
In a prior installment, I talked about the elemental components of love — empathy and compassion. You will never be able to fully love anyone until you apply these to yourself.
You need to have empathy for yourself — see your decisions through the lens of your circumstances and situations. What was going on when you made some of of your choices and decisions? How did you feel? We all make both good and bad choices and decisions but why do we make them? If you don’t take time to understand this through the lens of your experiences, you will enter an endless spiral of self-judgment and improperly conclude that you deserve the results of your negative decisions.
Let me stop here for a minute. You might be saying, “Whoa! Are you saying there are no consequences for your actions?” Absolutely not. Even Newton’s third law tells us there’s an equal but opposite reaction to every action. In christiaity, it’s called “sowing and reaping;” in other religions it’s called “karma.” Keep in mind, though, that in life, mistakes are mandatory but failure isn’t final. There have been people who have even committed murder but have been able to experience redemption and restoration. Any mistake that does not end in your own demise can be recovered from. It may be difficult and daunting but it is definitely doable! There is no mistake worthy of self-loathing!
The next step is having compassion for yourself. This simply means to care about yourself. Have you ever met someone who is committed to the assistance of others even to their own detriment? I have. And, to be honest, I used to deeply admire these folks. I believed that their self-denial was true selflessness and humility.
Now, not so much.
I’m not talking about those who commit an act of heroism such as sacrificing ones self to save one or many in mortal danger — I’m talking about folks who go into debt, who miss meals, who sacrifice their own well-being consistently on behalf of others.
There is no honor in this.
The basic law of life is self-preservation. If you will look after yourself, you will find it easy to look after others. This was a lesson I had to learn for myself. In many cases, I was so preoccupied with the well-being of others that I neglected myself. Then I discovered I was truly no help to others if I, myself, was in dire straits. I frequently neglected or disregarded my own physical, emotional, and fiscal health to see to it that others were cared for.
That’s when it hit me — I was no good to anyone if I was no good to myself. And, when I got to the root of my problem, I didn’t love myself. I did what I did for others out of either a sense of penance for myself or a false sense of self-piety. In neither case did I put myself first and, therefore wasn’t truly an asset to anyone, much less myself.
When you’re on an airplane, the flight attendants tell you “In the event of cabin depressurization, oxygen masks will fall from the overhead. Place the mask on your own face before assisting others.”
Here’s a thought experiment: does what you do for others hurt you? Does what you do for yourself hurt others? In either of these cases, your actions cannot truly be infused with love. Why? Because love does not hurt. In fact, love goes out of its way to help and to bless. But in order to do something loving for others, you must have a reservoir of love within you.
The good news is that we all do. We often don’t see it because it hasn’t been revealed. An astute reader may see a contradiction in this because I’m saying you can’t give what you don’t have but I’m also saying you already have it. Well, all living humans have blood — but you will not believe you can give blood if you don’t first realize you have it and you may be afraid to give it if you don’t know your supply will be replenished.
Self love, in my opinion, is the highest expression of what we would call “worship.” Why? Because the vessel that carries your soul is the greatest gift you will ever receive in the temporal realm. You need to first love yourself before understanding how to properly care for yourself. The highest expression of humanity is to live our lives in such a way that we never live to benefit ourselves at the expense of others.
Bottom line: trying to love anyone before loving yourself is a failed premise. Religion has it all wrong.