Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

“The second is this ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31

I find this to be a hard commandment for everyone. There are two reasons for this. But one is a reason you might not think of. You probably have the verse above memorized, but I want to read it closely and think about what is being said. Look closely at the first sentence in that verse. Do you see it, “Love your neighbor as yourself?”

The context of the verse makes it grow in the underlying implication. To summarize the context of the verse, a teacher of the law approaches Jesus and tries to give him a trick question. The teacher asks, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” In short, Jesus states, “The most important one, the Lord is one, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And he states, “The second is Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”[1]

When Jesus says that, He really is summarizing all of the commandments into two. All of the commandments involve the love of God, other people, and yourself. He just boils it done to its most simple premise. However, I want to notice how He says “there is no greater commandment greater than these.” And take note of that statement. Keep it in mind.

When I think about the phrasing and how Jesus puts Mark 12:31 and the other gospel variances, it becomes a very interesting verse. Jesus could have put the verse of loving your neighbor a different way. However, He specifically says “love your neighbor as yourself.” When you really think about it, this is such a powerful verse. He inserts another party into the equation. It’s not just God and your neighbor. He inserts self-love. He puts the person into the equation. God wants us to love ourselves and it is part of the greatest commandment. He intentionally says that we need to love ourselves.

Christians are not to be about self-hate because God calls us to love ourselves. That means forgiving ourselves and being patient with ourselves. It means having no false humility. By false humility I mean, thinking things that aren’t true about yourself. Thinking lower of yourself than everyone else. Even though you love your neighbor, you are not fulfilling the greatest commandment because you don’t love yourself.

The other take for this verse would be “since I don’t love myself then I don’t have to love my neighbor.” This is wrong and would not fulfill the commandment either. I know this because if we work out the verse backward with everything the bible says about treating others, then we come back to good treatment of others and therefore ourselves. God doesn’t give much instruction on self- love it seems, but the greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.” And through that verse he gives us a hint that if we struggle with loving ourselves the measure is to love ourselves like we were our neighbor. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And it works in reverse.

Do you see now why this little verse is so powerful? It expresses God’s will that if we struggle with loving ourselves that we are to love ourselves like how we love other people.

I will be the first to admit I have this struggle. I’m always harder on myself than other people. I can be downright cruel to myself. I remember sometimes I would make running a punishment for a mistake I made. I remember a few times, I desired to run myself into the ground. To run until I collapsed from exhaustion. And I would punish myself in other ways. However the truth is, God wants me and you to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. He makes it one of the greatest commandments and that itself says a lot.

One method I found that helps in treating myself how I would my neighbor is to picture a friend of mine in the same circumstances and making the same mistakes. And if I would forgive them than what makes me any different in deserving my own forgiveness. My therapist told me in a recent session, to do that when I remember the stupid and insecure things I did when going through the depths of my most recent episode of major depression.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets and hate some of the things I did. However, if it was any other person I would understand that they were sick and readily forgive them. I would understand that it wasn’t entirely their fault and understand that they weren’t themselves. And that’s the way I have to look at myself when I think about how I pushed others away and how I was also clingy. And also for when I craved comfort to soothe my pain. I need to put someone else in my shoes to understand that it’s okay that I made mistakes.

The struggle of treating myself how I treat others is something I am trying to work on. And most of all, I hope this helped you to try to love yourself more too. Remember God loves you so much, and he wants you to love yourself too.

Until next time,

Ashes

[1] Mark 12: 28-31

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Confession

Sorry, it has taken me so long to make another post. I said I would write a series of posts on my perspective as a Catholic convert. I apologize for taking so long. I have not been quite inspired to write. I’m sure this will change though once I’m back at Saint Leo and can attend mass regularly and have fellowship.

Confession.

This word should spark something in every Christian. A few words or images may come to mind like forgiveness or maybe dread. You may picture a dark place full of shame. Or you may picture a scary place. However, when you come to understand what confession is, it’s nothing like that. Confession is about forgiveness and not being judged. It is where you can hear words “you are forgiven.” Confession is a sacrament I love and it might even rival my love for the Eucharist. (Eucharist is the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ into the bread and wine in communion.)

Generally, this sacrament is controversial in Christianity. Though, the purpose of this post is not to provide evidence to convince someone that confession is instituted by Jesus, but to discuss what confession is to me. I ask that anyone who wants to debate the biblical truth of confession with me please refrain from doing so.  For those who do not know catholic teaching, and to avoid anyone who wants to be a troll, confession does not mean that God is so limited that he cannot forgive sins directly. He can, there is no argument about that. It matters on the motive. It has to be out of love for God and grief over hurting and offending a Lord who is goodness himself. It cannot be out of fear or terror for your salvation.

Back to the purely spiritual side of the faith, and the intended topic, confession is very different for me than compared to some cradle Catholics. That’s not to say I don’t get nervous before confession, but I don’t dread it. Confession is still quite tricky for me still. I’m new Catholic and I was accepted into the church this year the 2nd Sunday of Easter. I am in no way a baby Christian though, and should not be mistaken for one. I am just new in the catholic faith. Therefore, I’m still getting use to how confession works and what is considered a good confession and what is a bad confession. I have actually only been to confession three times, but I would love to go every week; my circumstances prevent me from doing so though.

Beyond my personal circumstances and experiences, Confession is a great gift. I love how in confession I can hear a verbal expression of my sins being forgiven. However, it should not be understood that you need a man to forgive you. God is the one who forgives and knows your intention in the confessional. The priest in the sacrament of confession represents the Church and Jesus. The love of hearing absolution stems from when I was a child. As a child, it was hard for me to ask for forgiveness and not really know if God forgave me. I was left wondering if I was forgiven because I kept doing bad things over and over. Things like disobeying my parents and arguing with my brother. Some were intentional, as in “its fine if I do this over and over again because God forgives me.” This is a common faulty notion among people and can be found in every denomination. It didn’t seem right within myself that someone should forgive another who is just abusing forgiveness to do the bad act again. The Lord’s Prayer says “forgive our trespasses as those who have trespassed against us.” Therefore, I had this sense that just asking for forgiveness wasn’t something that could guarantee that God forgave you. This sense had some truth to it. Forgiveness depends on your intention and if you are repentant.

Another crucial aspect of confession is the examination of one’s self. With the sacrament of confession, I am more aware of my failings and my need for grace. We see ourselves as we really are. We get to know ourselves very well.  This is beneficial to us in that we actually see who we are and not what we think we are.  To clarify my point, there is this notion that the way we see ourselves is not how we actually are. We see ourselves better than we are. Conversely, other people are a better gauge at who we really are because they don’t have our biases, nor are they in our head. One way to see ourselves is by the others, but we can do that also by examining ourselves and not fooling ourselves to feel good. This helps us grow as people and not to settle for who we are now.

This aspect is important to me because I can see where my faults are and have better understanding of being humble. This humility is also facilitated in confession by the fact you stare your sins in the face and have to own up to them. You speak aloud your faults and fully acknowledge that you had done wrong to the priest. You acknowledge that you are not as good as you should be and acknowledge that another person. This can be uncomfortable, but it teaches you to see yourself with reality and not have a distorted perception of yourself.

In addition, when speaking out loud your sins to a priest, you come to see how patient and kind Jesus is. You can see how forgiving He is. The priest is supposed to emulate Christ and his love. In my confessions, the priests were undeterred by my sins and were kind. They respected me and did not look down on me in any way. Not to mention, some of the priests I saw for confession acted like my sins I had confessed was not the bane of all evil. Their view of me didn’t seem to change. They saw it as the past and left it there. lack of negative reaction or even having slight negative expressions on their faces has lead me closer to understanding how to forgive like Jesus. There were no judgments except that I was trying to follow God as best I could. And nothing will be or would be held over my head against me. In little a way, I think priests have helped facilitate my views on not listening to what I hear about someone’s past because it is in the past. They could have changed and realized their mistake. Though, I am not perfect at this yet and I’m leery about doing such in certain situations, it has helped me see that past mistakes are just that. In the past.

The sacrament of Confession has offered way more to me than with only praying for forgiveness to God. It has let me see past the darkness and cast me into the light. I can see my need for God and see my true self with all its faults. I have clarity in understanding myself and judging myself. I see humility as what it is. I also see the crime of deluding myself in thinking some questionable choices I made were right. I see my need for forgiveness since confession requires awareness of one’s self and your sins. Confession is a great gift. The greatest part about it though is the slate is washed clean. The sins are gone. Forgiveness, love, and grace has washed them away. And if grave sin was committed, God warmly embraces you back into communion with him.