Commandment 1.5: Love Yourself, Pray for Others

I keep getting these cues, or signs, or clues, that point (so it seems) to an icky behavior of mine.

I bring it up here because the behavior is probably not unique to me.  Let’s see if you share this sticking point with me.

Several months ago, the Rev. Ed Townley, wrote in his Daily Focus email that the teachings of Jesus could be whittled down to two powerful messages.

First, of course, is the greatest commandment, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.”

The second is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here comes the sticky part.  Rev. Townley suggests a prerequisite to the second commandment, perhaps a Commandment 1.5:

“In order to love our neighbor at all, we must first shift from loving God to loving ourselves.”

Do you see the problem?  You may say you love yourself, but do you believe it?  I was raised that focusing on myself was, well, selfish, and that I was supposed to think about others first.

As I mature, both in chronology and in wisdom, I’m beginning to understand the reasoning behind taking care of myself before caring for others.

Now, for a twist

If you value self-love-and actively practice loving yourself–you’re less likely to carry around a bunch of resentments about people and situations in your life.

Answer these four questions as honestly as you can:

  1. 1.  Do you get pissed off easily at people and have trouble letting it go?
  2. 2.  Do you tend to rant at institutions when you believe they’ve done you wrong?
  3. 3.  Do you obsess about situations, maybe at work or with your family, replaying them in your head to help justify your point of view?
  4. 4.  Would you say you love yourself to the same degree that you love the most significant person in your life?

Tough questions, I know.

They make me a little uncomfortable.  I honestly don’t know if I can say Yes to #4.

Here’s the thing:  Until I can, I am susceptible to ongoing anger and resentment.

There’s a solution for resentments

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, on page 552, suggests praying for the person or thing that you resent.  The book says that when you do this, you will be free.

“If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free,” the page reads.

The writer of the story, “Freedom From Bondage,” says he’s learned that peace of mind will only come to him in exact proportion to the peace of mind he gives to others.

I’m all for giving all I can if it means I can stop praying for others because I have a resentment.

Maybe I’ll pray for the willingness to love myself.

Love is always the answer.  And as Rev. Townley reminds us, “God is love and love can only express as love – love for our imperfections, love for our misjudgments, love for who we are at this very moment.”

Why should we think any less of ourselves than God thinks of us?

I’d love to hear what you think!

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  1. LaDonna Coy says:

    Thanks Beth. I think most of us need to hear this over and over and over again – it’s just so hard to practice when, as you said so well, we are raised (especially as women) to put others first, always. But that experience landed me with a big splat into burnout, depression and feeling totally lost between the teachings I grew up with and the realities I was facing so unsuccessfully. I’ve since discovered the meditative practice of loving kindness (very much what you’ve described here) and it has made all the difference. Caring for ourselves is caring for others 🙂

  2. Hey,

    I do believe we need to love ourselves first before we love another. I too was taught to think of others first. I also spent many years trying to find self love by connecting with someone else. If someone else loved me, then all was well. That backfired big time. Some hard lessons were learned, but eventually I began to understand the need for a change. Good topic and great insights! Thank you.

    • Beth says:

      Ah, “trying to find self love by connecting with someone else.” I think I’m in recovery from that behavior as well, Cathy! I have a long history of shape-shifting for someone else and then trying hard to convince myself that I felt good about me. Sometimes I think I write this stuff to help myself remember! Great to hear from you!

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