Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our Neighbor as Ourselves

Some day soon I'm going to write about this year's pony club horse show, which was amazing. But right after I got home from the horse show, Saturday night, I read another Post of Self-Loathing on Facebook. Now, I wish my friends wouldn't post these things. But more than that, I wish they wouldn't feel these things. The post was all:
I look terrible in this photo (posted to the internet)
I'm so fat
I'm so ugly 
I can't do anything right
I feel awful.
I feel ashamed.

I felt awful, too. Because there's no way to respond to a friend who's mired in her own self-loathing. All your reassurances sound false. I don't know why this is true. But I also wish we could all overcome these puddles of shame. We are loved. We are all loved.

At church on Sunday the gospel reading was about the two greatest Commandments, "love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself." Now, this verse is sort of like "money is the root of all evil," in that it gets slightly misinterpreted. (It's actually, "the love of money is the root of all evil.") We're not called to love our neighbors as we love our own selves. Thank God. We're called to love our neighbors as we ourselves want to be loved.

What a difference.

It can be really hard for some of us to believe that we are loved. I get that. But we are, and if we are that loved, if we could feel ourselves wrapped in that constant love, wouldn't we be less self-disparaging? If we treated ourselves as deeply, wholly loved--if we even treated ourselves as kindly as we would our own dear friends--we'd cut ourselves some slack without letting ourselves off the hook.

Maybe we can offer ourselves some kindness. Maybe we can see the beauty instead of the ugliness.

If not, we can always put the ugly to work. At the YA Lit conference I went to recently, a bunch of us writers had gathered for dinner at the hotel (read: gathered at the bar, stayed there, and ate bar food for dinner). I was talking with a small group of women. Talk veered to trauma and I related some of mine. The writer next to me gave me a long sympathetic look. "Why don't you use that?" she asked. I told her what my upcoming book was about--a clubfoot evacuee from the slums of London. "Ah," she said, nodding, "you have." Damn straight. Writers do that. But the rest of you had better learn to love.