Welcome to Part 2 of Love Your Neighbor as You Love Your Dog. If you missed Part 1, click here to take you there, then you can click in Part 1 to bring you back to Part 2. Aren’t I just a fancy girl?!
As I talked about in Part 1, I have grown to have a deep and extremely personal relationship with God. Through that relationship, I have grown to love and accept myself, exactly as I am, period.
Through this journey I have also experienced moments where old beliefs and pillars of my Christianity were brought to light and they were laid at my feet for further examination. Not in a judgmental way, but in a gentle way, like in a pruning of a plant to help its growth kinda way.
This has not been a comfortable or easy walk, in the least. My time has been filled with much repentance and much regret for how I judged and treated people in my past based on my beliefs. It has been quite sobering and humbling to a level I could not have previously imagined.
My walk has sorta felt like this picture:
There are foundations of my faith that have been shaken to the core and remained standing and there have been foundations that have totally crumbled under the bright full light of love and acceptance of me and others as God made all of us to be.
If we go back to the words attributed to Jesus “Love your neighbor as yourself” I would say that it’s not as simple as it seems. Conversely, I would also say it IS TRULY that Simple.
I hope I didn’t lose you there.
What I mean is that Jesus’ statement seems to assume that we would love ourselves and therefore we would be able to love our neighbors likewise. However, I feel like we have lost love for ourselves. I think so many of us hold ourselves to an unachievable standard. That high standard has left us longing for our own perfection or at the very least has left us wondering “what’s wrong with me?” or “when will I ever get it all figured out?”
I have a secret for you, well, two secrets actually:
- There is nothing wrong with you.
- You don’t have to have it all figured out. (PS. No One Does!)
This unachievable standard has left many folks in a place of true self-hatred, whether they realize it or not. So what, you say? What difference does that make?
Well, if you are to love your neighbor as you love yourself, but you HATE yourself how will you ever effectively love your neighbor? Know what I’m sayin’?
Sure, you can pour love out on your neighbor, but the instant something in your relationship goes awry so often will the love that you show them. It’s the internal measuring stick of perfection that we hold ourselves to that eventually leaks out as a measuring stick to others. Perhaps better called a plank and sliver? Hint, Hint, Wink, Wink. 😉
The more you accept and love you, and therefore shatter that internal measuring stick into a bazillion pieces, the more you are able to accept and love others, exactly as they are. So, just like Jesus said, love others as you love yourself, bingo simple.
Then the question perhaps arises, who is my neighbor?
Well, if you have spent any time reading the bible or even just warming a pew in a church, you have probably heard the parable of The Good Samaritan. (You can find it in Luke 10:25-37)
Quick summary here:
A man was attacked while traveling on the road and left half dead. A priest walked by, saw the injured man and crossed to the other side of the road to avoid him. Then, a Levite walked by and repeated the priest’s exact actions, leaving the man at the side of the road. Then a Samaritan walked by, saw the injured man and stopped and cared for him. He even took him to an inn to care for his recovery and paid the innmaker to continue caring for the man and promised full payment of whatever was required upon his return.
After telling the parable Jesus asked the man that sparked the story, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the injured man?” To which he had to admit that the Samaritan (who had mercy on him) was the neighbor.
Dude, this is SO powerful!!! If you just read the parable at the surface, great, you get it, the other two guys just passed on by, then this third guy had compassion and helped. Point taken, be nice to other people and don’t ignore them in their time of need.
However, if you stop there as the full moral of the story you miss SO MUCH!!
If you dig into Jewish history for a moment, you would see that they hated Samaritans. They truly thought they were less than human. (I won’t go into detail here, as much is actually written on this fact).
So, the priest and the Levite ignoring the injured man and the Samaritan stopping to help would have sounded absolutely ridiculous to those listening. Even more so, the original question asker (toted as an “expert of the law”) having to admit that a SAMARITAN was the hero of that story would have been an extremely painful, and probably embarrassing, experience.
Jesus was making a strong point (which he made so many times in his life) that there are no “others” there are no “less than” people. ALL ARE WORTHY and ALL ARE LOVED, Period!! We are all neighbors to one another, there is not one single person taking in breath on this planet that is worth less than another in God’s eyes.
So, this makes life easy, right? Love everyone always, cool, done!
Or are we?
Unfortunately, I don’t think we are there. In fact, I think we are very far from there. It only takes a quick glance at the news or quick scroll through social media to see there is an awful lot of hatred of “others” out there.
Hard part is the “others” change depending on who you speak to. Some hate people based on their race, their gender, their sexual orientation or perhaps even because of their beliefs (that don’t match up with their own).
Love is lost in that place. Any position that puts your worth in a higher position than the worth of another is devoid of love.
You may initially think, well, I don’t struggle with that, I love everyone. If that is your default response, I encourage you to dig deeper. Pay attention to what you watch and how you respond to people during your day. Do you avoid eye contact with that homeless person? Do you get frustrated by the non-English speaking person trying to check out in confusion at the grocery store? Do you condemn people to hell for their belief choices, their behavior or even for their sexual orientation?
If each of us paid attention to the little ways that we are not loving our neighbors, I think most of us would be shocked.
Part of loving is not judging. Part of loving is not excluding. Part of loving is accepting and celebrating every person.
Loving is Loving, period. That doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Love sometimes looks like boundaries. Love sometimes looks like hurting someone’s feelings. Love sometimes looks like walking away from a relationship.
Love expresses itself in many different ways. The key is to let love lead. If you get a feeling in a certain situation, pause and check it. Is it coming from love? Or is it coming from judgment? Perhaps it is coming from fear or a need for self-protection?
Once you can get in touch with where a feeling is coming from, you can direct your actions from there and decide what love looks like in that situation.
Perfection is not the goal. If it was, we’d all be screwed.
I believe that living and loving is the goal.
I believe that helping others to live a more beautiful life after having interacted with you is the goal.
Loving others as you love yourself is the goal.
So, learn to love yourself then enjoy kicking that Love Ball through the Goal!