Sunday, September 10, 2017

Love thy Neighbor as Yourself

Paul's exhortation in his Letter to the Romans concludes, "You shall love thy neighbor as yourself."  Challenging enough to love thy neighbor whoever it may be, but what about loving thyself? What does that mean?  It is a good spiritual practice to reflect on ones actions at the end of the day. Some people prefer the Examen method which is one that I find useful, others a general overview inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal ones actions throughout the day. What do we see?


I find that loving myself is quite difficult. There are so many imperfections and actions throughout my daily existence that sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed.  I find that in conversations I tend to manipulate the topic so that it fits me or I can take credit for something. Likewise in heated moments I can by quite cynical and abrasive with those close to me as well as those I might be serving during the course of the day. I find myself stewing when things don't go in the direction I would like them or even playing out situations in my cluttered mind so that they best fit my needs. Self-centered is the word. I find myself as standoffish when I feel hurt. Quite a few defects of character.


The key is not go into the self-flagellation mode of which I have a history of doing. What allows me to carry on? Only through the infinite grace of God can I survive. Realizing that I am human and that the mercy of God can transcend all imperfections that I carry if I allow it to penetrate the walls i have erected as self-defense mechanism. Thus I have a general acceptance of myself as a human.

It is then and only then can I truly love thy neighbor. Being tolerant of others imperfections especially when my own faults seemingly outweigh theirs is important. Not getting that spiteful or judging word in when the temptation is so overwhelmingly strong to do so. Surrendering in the moment of anger to the will of God and refraining from volatile social media post are roads to this commandment. As Pope Francis says quite often, "Words can kill too."  This applies to how I perceive myself as well as others.  I quite often gravitate to favorite prayer of mine during the many times where I want nail someone to the cross. It is one that used quite often to those in recovery as well in popular faith circles as well.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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