Many perceive love as being flowery and easy, almost fairytale-like. What we fail to realize is that fairytales always end at “And they lived happily ever after.” leaving us to imagine what happens during the “happily ever after” love.
As Christians we are taught three cardinal rules of love:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (St. Matthew 22:37-38)
- Love yourself (unspoken rule) (St. Matthew 22:39)
- Love your neighbor as yourself (St. Matthew 22:39)
I recently posited to a friend that a lot of the issues faced in our world today can be traced back to our failure to keep one or all of these cardinal rules. You heard me right! The world’s issues, at their core, are the result of failures to love (we can argue this point another day but check St. Matthew 22:40). 🙂
But, can I be honest for a second? I struggle with consistently heeding all three cardinal rules. In reflecting, I acknowledged that this was a topic worth diving into and so, I dove into each of the cardinal rules of love in a 3-part series. If you missed last week’s post, check out Cardinal Rules of Love – Part 1 – Do you love God?
The requirement we think we meet but continue to fail horribly…
Self-love does not equate to selfishness. The Bible makes it clear that a prerequisite to loving others is loving yourself. Whenever, we hear self-love, many of us immediately think of the physical so I wanted to address this first.
Until I was in my early twenties, I hated looking in the mirror because all I saw were my “negative” traits. I was too skinny and awkward. I was too lanky (in primary school they called my Longie Lala because of my early growth spurt). I didn’t wear the latest fashions because my family couldn’t afford it and then when I embraced religion, I couldn’t crème my hair or wear the makeup and jewelry that my peers experimented with.
Something changed when I embraced my relationship with God and paused to find myself. I began to see myself differently and accepted that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea but physically, I was impressively made and it was time I changed the narrative of what I had spent most of my life believing and projected that new belief with confidence. I affirmed myself: “I am beautiful in spite of the additions.”
With this conclusion, I felt that I had accomplished self-love. However this couldn’t be further from the truth. Loving yourself means ensuring you are healthy on all levels (not just the physical) and sadly, many of us are unhealthy in other ways because we fail to:
- Prioritize ourselves, particularly when self-love conflicts with other areas of our values systems
- Practice forgiving offenses
Handling conflicts between self-love and value systems…
They say that confession is good for the soul…so here goes. I generally try to give my best and treat others as I would want to be treated. The problem is that I often find myself compromising on self-love when it conflicts with these values. I tend to deal with these struggles in both my professional and personal life.
When work happens at the expense of you…
I have lived by the “Age Quod Agis” (whatever you do, do it well) motto for most of my life. My need to give my best, particularly at work, constantly conflicted with my need to love myself and I often found myself working long hours yet neglecting my need to wine down, handle my needs and just enjoy being me. In reflecting, I was the one who disrespected my personal boundaries and my need for self-love.
Valuing others at the expense of you…
Recently, a friend and I had a long difficult season. My attempts to reconcile our friendship and be there for him (here I go trying to give my best again), meant that I sacrificed being there for myself. Yet, the more I tried, the more my friend walked all over my boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming my friend, however, I know one thing: He was able to walk all over my boundaries because I allowed him to whenever I made excuses for his behaviors and told myself that he was having a hard enough time without me adding to it. In essence because I didn’t respect my personal boundaries, I gave my friend the leeway to disrespect or ignore them as well.
In both situations, while I focused on maintaining my values, I broke one of the cardinal rules of love. I neglected to love myself.
The day of reckoning…
One day (a little too late) I stopped and looked in the mirror and realized that I didn’t like the person I saw. I was slowly becoming an older version of my younger self; the girl with the empty wide smile and heart and waging mental war. I didn’t feel like I was an amazing person. I was depressed and felt empty and yet the demands kept coming from all ends. I was stressed, drained, unhappy and uninspired. My writing was stunted. I started writing but couldn’t finish anything. I struggled to sleep and my body and emotions were all over the place. Every time my friend deeply wounded me, I cried before putting on my mask to go show him the compassion I felt he needed. Worst of all, I begun to feel like:
- I was struggling to keep a friendship with a friend who no longer respected me. Heck, I didn’t respect myself. I resented feeling this way, especially when I realized that, when I reflected on everything, I didn’t respect myself either.
- I was putting in too much energy into a job that left me feeling so dissatisfied. I hated waking up to go to work.
Something needed to be done…
The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging there is a problem and then determining and executing on a solution…The problem was that I was focused on living a life of balance where I had put myself near to last. But the solution was simple: Instead of trying to balance everything and failing miserably, I would re-establish my priorities and focus on loving me and let everything else flow from my love for God and myself. My values were best executed when I could do them from a place of wholesomeness.
For work, I started ending on time and spoke to my boss about getting resources to assist me with my large complicated program that spans multiple time zones. I also realized that I was stressed because of my failure to trust my team and delegate more and so, I pushed for more team accountability and quit some of the activities and meetings where I wasn’t required. I also begun job-hunting and exploring ways to better coach my team into self-sufficiency.
When it came to my friend, I accepted that although I love him, I also have a responsibility to love myself. So, I redefined how I demonstrated that love. I reset my boundaries, spoke up for myself and reasserted my value, even if it meant I was a little less understanding. I also recognized that as a part of loving myself, I had to forgive my friend if he chose to ignore my boundaries (in my book: essentially betraying or walking away from our friendship) and be willing to walk away if those boundaries were continuously disregarded.
A few days ago, I laughed until my cheeks and tummy ached after using some quick comebacks to win a verbal sparring match with a close friend. The sound and ache startled me and I felt saddened to realized I hadn’t had a moment like that in a while although they used to be a frequent occurrence in my life. I however, cheered myself up with the commitment that I would increase the regularity of these moments.
The Point? I assure you there is one… 🙂
Self-love is not just limited to the physical. It is needed on all levels related to self including setting and respecting our personal boundaries. If you can’t love, value and respect you, how can you expect anyone else to. Exhibit self love: prioritize and value you and respect your boundaries. Be a light of Christ that make an impact and glow on all levels. Consistently demonstrate self-love.
Thank you for stopping by and reading. I would love to hear about some ways that you have been demonstrating self-love? Tell me in the comments section, below. 🙂
“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favour and give you peace” – Numbers 6: 23-26
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I am a dynamic young lady who loves the Lord and seek to have a joy that no one can take away. My all-time favourite thing to do is gaining discoveries by design from My Father during our time each day. Reading, learning and trying new things falls behind in a close second place. My dream is to use my God-given talents to positively impact as many people as possible. As a proud Wolmerian, with a zest for life, I adhere to the “Age Quod Agis” motto in that whatsoever I do, I always do it to the best of my ability.