There are a few phrases that annoy me as much as this one... well, actually a little more than a few. But, there are few over-used-misinterpreted-watered-down phrases that annoy me more than this one. Yeah, that’s a little more accurate. To no fault of St. Paul, “love your neighbor as yourself” is one of them.
Now, before you become outraged and consider if the woman writing all of these reflections you’ve been meditating with these last 11 days is a kook, allow me to explain…
It is a very beautiful thing to say – we must love one another well. But, we would really miss the mark on this teaching if we didn’t look at the entire context of what Paul was asking of the Romans. He is not just asking them to be nice to one another. For, being nice is easy – I can smile at you and say nice things to you without actually loving you. That is what bugs me so much when we take this phrase out and use it on its own. WHO gets to define what love is? For, I love myself pretty poorly so much of the time. How then can I love others as they deserve if I don’t love myself as I deserve?
Paul proclaims the antidote to this false love soon after proclaiming that we must love. He proclaims, “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.” What is the law? The commandments!
We must then “Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light!”
Cast off sin, and put on Christ!
When we love ourselves by treating ourselves as we were created (to live in the light of Christ) we can more easily love others. But, this is something that we must actively share so that others can know the truth of love.
I propose that instead of teaching, “Love one another as you love yourself,” we teach others (and of course our little ones) to “Love one another as Christ loves us.”
He loves the weak, the rude, the intolerant, the disabled, the poor, the entitled, the unborn, all of our neighbors (even the ones who blow their leaves into your lawn)… He loved all of us to the cross. And it is our respons(e)ibility to do the same.
So often, it is when I notice that I’m not loving myself well that I’m also not loving others well, I may soon realize after tearing myself down that I too am judging others, I lack patience, I’m rude…
Today, make a good examination of conscience to see where your heart is at. End your day with this analysis of how well you are loving yourself and others. And before you go to bed, make a good act of contrition asking God for His assistance in casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light. And (if needed), schedule a day to seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Here is a link to an excellent (and simple) examination of conscience: http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-examination-of-conscience.html