Sunday, July 5, 2009

Loving Ourselves

Loving ourselves begins in the heart. Our hearts--the spiritual, godly part of us-- have the power to decide which thoughts we will nurture. We choose peace or misery, good or bad, love or hate by the thoughts we hold in our hearts. . When we harbor unloving thoughts about anyone, including ourselves, we lose sight of our intrinsic worth and our godly potential. When we choose to think compassionate thoughts about ourselves, others, and God, we discover we have greater self-respect, self-love, and feelings of self-worth. Truly, as we sow, we reap.

Think about the things we sometimes say to ourselves: “I’m so stupid, messed up, incompetent, unattractive, ___________.” Fill in the blank. These toxic thoughts can destroy our peace of mind and our self-love.

When the enemy zaps us with negative thoughts, we need to immediately cast them out of our hearts and minds. We can say, “Uh, uh, I am NOT stupid, messed up, incompetent, or unattractive. I am a child of God, created in His perfect image. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am a person of infinite worth.” We need to say these positive affirmations until the siege of negativism ends.

To love ourselves fully, we need to think compassionate thoughts of others. That’s not hard to do when people are kind to us, but when others betray or abuse us, it can be very difficult. We need to realize that forgiving others is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves. When we harbor unloving thought about others, we injure ourselves.

We do not love ourselves fully when we hold onto thoughts of anger, revenge, or bitterness towards another. Now, these thoughts will come, but when they do, we need to cast them out so that we can more fully love ourselves. We may need to seek God’s help to do this, especially if we have been deeply injured, but He will help us if we ask for His help. Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “We must forgive those who have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don’t want to keep paying for the injustice.”

Finally, to fully love ourselves we need to think loving thoughts towards God. I found that easy to do until someone I dearly loved was horribly abused by a neighbor. Then, I became really angry at myself, the offender, and God. It seemed so unfair that an innocent child could be horrifically tortured and violated by someone I trusted. “Why didn’t I protect her? How could the perpetrator do that? Why did God allow such evil?” I asked. I tormented myself with these toxic thoughts.

It took me years to realize that no matter now vigilant I am, I cannot protect everyone I love from harm. I also realized that I was abusing myself by allowing the perpetrator to wound my soul. Forgiveness brought me comfort and was the most healing gift I could give myself. As I watched my loved one suffer from the effects of the abuse, I then faced the issue of forgiving God.

"Oh, I’d never do that,” some may say. “I would never be angry at God.” I thought I never would either, but after watching my loved one experience indescribable suffering for years, I began to question God’s compassion. “How could He allow someone to torture and abuse my loved one?” I wondered. “Why did he allow a precious, innocent child to suffer so? Why is He letting her life spin out of control because of the abuse? Why won’t He permit me to ease the pain? Why? Why? Why?”

When I stopped asking “why” and accepted the fact that life contains inexplicable suffering, I found peace. To love God, we need to remember that His ways are not our ways and that He does not create suffering but that He is the source of all comfort. Some things will never be understood in this life, but we can trust that God knows the meaning of all things.

As we endure sorrow and difficulty, we can better understand the suffering of others. We develop patience, kindness, mercy, and meekness as we endure suffering well. When we face adversity, we can ask God to comfort us, for He has experienced every pain that we have felt and He will either ease our anguish or help us to endure it.

After we have been comforted, we can better comfort others. Paul says, “The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.”

As we nurture compassionate thoughts about for ourselves, others and God, we discover that love gives us the power to live joyfully. We can learn to love and accept ourselves just as we are, knowing that God has great plans for us and wants to use us as His instruments. When we choose to focus on loving thoughts and refuse to harbor thoughts that lack compassion, we are better able to respect ourselves, forgive others, and trust in God. Love creates in us strength instead of weakness, happiness instead of misery, and courage instead of fear. It eventually will make us whole.

© Carol Brown

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