When I was in college, I took a course on comparative religion – World Religion 101, if I remember right. I do remember that the professor, Dr. Larry Meredith, brought in speakers every other week to talk about their religion. We’d have a module on the particular faith, and then a layperson from that religion would come and speak. I’ve forgotten which religions we studied, but I do remember one thing: at their core, every religion seemed to have on basic tenet that they all share. Love each other.
That one rule has stuck with me, all these years. Lately, I’ve really been thinking about what it means. When you love someone, you want what’s best for them, no holds barred. It’s easy to act with love when you’re dealing with your children: because we love them, we want them to have a good education, think critically, be able to take care of themselves, and so on. Teach a kid to fish, or something.
When you want to apply that – acting with love – outside of our children, it gets trickier. Partly because it’s tough to want the best for the boss that fired you, and partly because we forget to love ourselves first. There is a Buddhist saying that embodies this beautifully: “One cannot pour from an empty cup.” If you do not love yourself, where is the love for everyone else going to come from?
Self-care is a big part of this. It’s something so many people overlook, or we think we’re doing it but we’re not. It’s so much bigger than “take an afternoon to yourself” or “have a spa day.” Ask yourself what you really need in order to feel good about yourself. Do you need better boundaries? Do you need to express yourself more clearly? Indulge your hobbies? Follow your dreams? It’s important to confront our fears, and kick our own rears when we need it. It took me years to get the courage to say, “I have always wanted to be a writer, and now I’m going to do it” and start blocking out time for writing every single day. I don’t know what I was afraid of – that the household chores wouldn’t get done, the husband & kids would feel neglected, something. Cats & dogs sleeping together, I dunno. What did happen is that when I hit my word count goal and got up to deal with the rest of the household, I had more energy to face my chores, it was easier for me to deal with conflict, and I was generally happier and more satisfied with my life. All because I said “I love myself enough to follow my dreams and to ask my loved ones to support me.”
As we talk about love this month, I want you to think about how you want to be treated, and treat yourself that way. How do you love yourself?