This is the third blog in the Add to Your Faith series. Read the rest of the series here.
Love is a great buzzword, right? After all, God is love, or so we say. My husband and I are currently trying to plan a way to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of our marriage–a milestone brought to you courtesy of… wait for it… love.
For something so present in our lives, you’d think we’d understand more about it, but I think many people misunderstand one of the most basic tenets of love: to love anyone else, you must first love yourself. I’m not the only person who thinks so. Mark Twain once said, “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” Lucille Ball would later comment, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
Why does that matter? It could be argued that you shouldn’t love yourself–after all, the Bible tells us to be humble. I mean, I just wrote about that myself. But you know what? You must love yourself to love others.
Luke 6:31 tells us to “do unto others”. How can I love others if I don’t love myself? Romans 12:9 adds to that by saying that love must be sincere.
I must have a pure, Christian love for myself to be able to love others. That sounds complicated, but it’s not–the Lord gave us a blueprint for that love right in I Corinthians 13, right?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (verse 4)
One of the most difficult things to do with yourself sometimes is to be patient with yourself and be kind to yourself. In fact, we can be harder on ourselves than anybody else could ever hope… and unfortunately, when we’re being hard on ourselves, we’re often subject to pass that unkindness on to others. When we’re feeling stressed and upset, we snap at those that are closest.
My three kids help me remember this on a regular basis. I would never have classified myself as a patient person, but they are teaching me patience. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I see myself reacting differently than I did years ago. What I have noticed is that when I am centered, calm, and relaxed, my emotions pass on to my kids–no matter how simple or serious the issue. Sometimes I have to put my own needs or wants to the side for them, and sometimes they have to do the same for me. It’s a give and take. None of us are more important than the others. We are all even in God’s eyes.
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (verse 5)
Okay, yeah, this part’s really been a struggle for me (the easily angered part). In my childhood, my temper was legend. Legend, I tell you. And yeah, I can still get my rage on when necessary, but I’ve learned to rein it in considerably. The kicker here is the rest of the verse. Love does not dishonor others. Nothing positive will come from my negativity toward others. In fact, it’s usually the opposite–run other people down, and you just make yourself look bad. And then there’s the whole “keeping record of wrongs” thing. I was chatting with someone about this earlier. Women are notorious for this.
I may or may not be able to recall an incident from my early elementary school days where a young classmate of mine pulled my hair while we were on the carpet for story time. The substitute teacher, who may or may not have had shoulder-length brown hair and white clothes on as she sat in the rocking chair with that book, may or may not have sent me to the corner as punishment for talking (even though all I said was “ouch” and I wasn’t the one who had pulled the hair).
I still get a little huffy thinking about that incident.
You all, it’s been somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty years since that day, but I still remember That Woman’s name (and think of her as That Woman). Isn’t that ridiculous? Now, I’m an adult, and I realize it’s silly, but that doesn’t change the fact that the emotion’s still there, however deeply it may be buried. You know who doesn’t remember that day?
So who am I hurting by keeping that memory alive?
That’s right. Me. And only me.
That’s an exaggerated example, but it’s no different than being in the middle of a fight with my husband and dragging out all of our baggage from fifteen years of marriage and four years of dating. That wouldn’t be loving at all–not loving to him, and not loving to myself. Why would I want to carry painful things around? A loving heart does what God does… forgives and forgets, and allows the slate to be wiped clean.
I am so excited to be celebrating fifteen years of marriage, but honestly, I’m just as proud of the fact that I have finally learned to love myself enough to allow me to have the best possible love for others. By releasing some of my own selfish desires, some of my own selfish preoccupations, and my own personal store of hurt feelings and pouty moments, I’ve opened my heart more fully than I could have ever hoped to before. I hope you can say the same!
Missed a post in the Add to Your Faith series? Catch up here.
MICKI CLARK is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, available on Amazon (print and digital) and other fine retailers.
Newlywed Rachel Miller has everything she could want from life—the perfect husband, her dream job, and a cute little house in the country—but the daydream is shattered when her husband is killed in a tragic accident. Her mother-in-law, Nadine, takes her in as she tries to pick up the pieces, and their handsome neighbor Beau is willing to help…if Rachel will let him. Does she dare open her heart for a second chance at love? – Don’t Ask Me to Leave, March 2017