Thursday, September 13, 2012

Loving Myself For Your Benefit

Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking to a beautiful group of wives and mothers who gather to pray and fellowship.  The time I spent with them clarified and deepened a conviction about our need to love ourselves.  I am embracing an "I love me for your benefit" philosophy.  However, it needs to be understood in the context of the proper "love order" (as reviewed by Fr. Michael Sullivan). We should love:
          1. God (above all else)
          2. Our soul (Love your neighbor as yourself)
          3. Our neighbor (yes, this includes our kids)
          4. Our body

I want to share this with you because our culture screams "Love yourself!  Love yourself!  Love yourself!"  Our culture says it's okay if your love begins and ends with yourself. 

As a person who would like to be "in the world, but not of the world", a.k.a. "counter-cultural", it would be easy to dismiss this "Love yourself" concept altogether, throw on the penances, don the hairshirt, and work on loving everyone but myself.  Meanwhile, making sure to feel very selfish for the smallest indulgence.  (Are you nodding your head in agreement?)  I think Christian women may lean a little too far in this direction (myself included).  Not for the sake of martyrdom, but because we fail to see the line between ordered and disordered love.

The truth (as usual) is not to be found in either extreme.  We cannot love our neighbor as ourself, if we do not love ourself in the first place.

"I love me for your benefit." - A person operating at this level says:  "I love me, work on me, and build myself up so that I can come to you from a position of wholeness, a position of fullness.  I take care of me so that you don't have to.  From fullness I can then empty myself, my gifts, my love, my actions, for your ultimate benefit.  I am the only one in charge of me, and I am the one ultimately responsible for me and my well-being.  Therefore, as a steward of my greatest gift, my life, I need to take steps to ensure my health, my calmness of mind, my sanity, and my own validation as a person in the world.  Thus, I can free you from having to provide those things for me.  Thus, I can truly serve you without needing you to serve me."

Hal Runkel, author of Scream-Free Parenting

Dear Lover of Body and Soul, Creator and Redeemer,  Thank you for loving us.  Thank you for summarizing the ten commandments in only two.  "Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."  "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Please help us to know what this looks like.  The world's voice is so loud, please help us to hear You.  I don't want to love myself more than I should, but I don't want to burden others for my part, either.  Please show me where the balance is in all things.  I love you and I trust You to reveal to me what I need to know.  I love you.  Amen. 

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