Just a few words and yet, damn if they don't pack a punch- not to mention a twist in the tail!
It doesn't say, 'if you like them, treat them well' or 'if they share your politics, be nice' or 'if they behave well, be kind'.
No. This is a far tougher word than that.
This says to love those around you like you love yourSELF.
For many of us, loving others can be tough enough, but learning to love ourselves? That can feel insurmountable.
You've learned through bitter experience that you're not enough for some people, and too much for others. You're the wrong sex to be taken seriously by some or your accent/background/skin colour/education/appearance/weaknesses are used by others to emphasise how beneath them you are, or by you as evidence of how 'not enough you are'
I have experienced this. I used to LOATHE myself. Now I did love my figure, which was downright fantastic, so there was that, but ME, who I was inside, I loathed.
That never leads anywhere good, and it has killed many.
It also cuts us off from others.
When we feel like we are not enough, when we feel like people will judge us if we put ourselves out there or we believe that we shouldn't reach for opportunities because others might have more experience and more knowledge, then we shut ourselves off from offering the world what we HAVE got, and from receiving encouragement when we help people with what we HAVE got to offer, rather than being consumed with a perceived LACK in what we have not got.
Learning to love yourself is a massive piece of being able to serve others well and to truly love your neighbour... even when you may not like them or they may be being a 'melter' (as we say over here), 'doing your head in' or otherwise driving you crazy.
Well to be fair, I get that this is stinking difficult at times, and I'm going to tell you what, for me, was the secret sauce.
I can teach you all the mindset strategies and give you all the science behind them, no worries there. Yet I can also tell you that the power behind all that is in who created all those strategies and science in the first place.
I have experienced miracles when I trusted God and tried to love him- even when I was so eaten up with self-loathing and depression that I really could only be angry at him and rail against every word that a Christian tried to encourage me with.
I just know that I'm alive because of people who 'just-so-happened' to do something really weird that kept me from going under at a 'coincidentally' perfect moment. I do not believe in coincidences.
Let me give you an example. My mentors at the time were a fantastic couple called Andy and Lynn. I had volunteered in the church I went to alongside Andy, and, when I spiralled down, they kept in touch and got into a habit of feeding me every Sunday. They are GREAT cooks...
One particular day when I was at absolute breaking point, I had a horrible call with my bank where I'd been begging for an extension on a loan payment. They refused, and told me I had until 4pm that day to get £350 that I did not have to them, or they'd put me in default and things would really go south.
I got off that call and was just sobbing. I was crying out to God, completely desperate, freaking out because I was working so hard and it wasn't enough, and I was afraid of losing my home... I was already living on plain pasta and darn all else, there was nothing to strip back, I was desperate.
That same afternoon, before 4pm (with enough time to get to the bank), an envelope fell through my door. With exactly the £350 I needed, in cash, in it. I found out years later that Andy and Lynn had received a tax rebate and had been all excited thinking they could decorate and then God brought me to their mind and they just knew God meant them to give that money to me.
So they did.
My loan got paid, I didn't lose all hope and instead I was blown away - which is rather silly of me really, because what's the point of me praying big prayers and asking God to provide if I don't actually expect him to?! I wish I could say I've fully learned that lesson, but I am still learning it.
The point is that my friends were able to love me exceptionally well, because they love God well and aim to love God with everything they have. They're living out the verse that comes just a little before the one I've quoted. Verse 37 says:
'Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ (New Living Translation)
I can only tell you that my life is 100% different than it was back then because of God. I've been protected, loved, supported, corrected, challenged, grown, blown away in amazement, energised, and so much more because I quit trying to be god to myself and let God into my life to be God while I just work on being me as I was created to be.
I'm not saying it'll be easy, but I am saying that it is worth it.
* No matter who you are or what you've done, you are utterly loved. You are precious, irreplaceable, and you were created by a God who loves you to live this life with a purpose that you were made for.
* Loving yourself is not arrogant. It's not about being a legend-in-your-own-bath-time and believing you're perfect. It's about looking at yourself and knowing that you have much to love, and that you have weaknesses, but your worth is not up for grabs. You have worth, end of story.
* Loving others as yourself does not mean condoning everything they do. Sometimes love is tough because it says 'no'. It holds the line because that is the loving thing to do for the best of that person and indeed others.
* You are enough. You were created as enough. God created you for relationship. God wants a relationship with you.
No matter whether you have an ongoing relationship with God or you're not actually sure if this God exists, just sit with the idea that you are enough, simply by being.
What could you do differently if you weren't dependent on status, income, education, accolades or others' approval?
What would you stop doing?
What would you start?
How might you treat yourself differently if you truly loved yourself and accepted that the God who created you designed you as a 'masterpiece' and wants a relationship with you?
What if that were true?
Let me know in the comments! <3