Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Peace of Loving Ourselves

For every person who is vain, arrogant, and proud, there are many who do not truly love themselves. (And, many proud folks aren't doing a terrific job of loving themselves as well.)

How often do you say to yourself: "If only I were...smarter, thinner, more successful, more clever, wiser, kinder, etc."? We usually compare ourselves to someone who is at his or her best or do a fictitious ideal, someone who does not even exist, and then we wonder why we don't measure up. When we compare ourselves with others, we will not experience true peace.

You may feel that the thought of truly loving yourself is impossible. But if you know how to love others, you have the capacity to love yourself. The secret is to love ourselves with the same love that we willingly share with our dearest friends and family members.

Jack Kornfield writes that the Babemba tribe in Africa gather together in a special meeting if someone in their tribe has done something reckless. In his book The Art of Forgiveness , Kornfield writes:

"Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done is his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length."

Sometimes the meeting can go on for days. When the ceremony is finished, everyone celebrates and embraces the person as he returns to full membership in the tribe. Imagine the healing that occurs when one who has hurt others is healed by the loving words of his friends and family.

Imagine how we would feel if we repeated that ceremony on our own lives. When we mess up, instead of berating ourselves, imagine how we would feel if we remembered the good things we have done. Eventually, we can learn to replace critical voices in our minds with kind voices. This may take time and effort, but we will experience greater peace as we treat ourselves more gently.

Of course, this kind of mercy does not mean that we should go out and be our worst self and then instantly forgive ourselves. Instead, loving ourselves means that after we do our best, we turn away from our mistakes, asking for forgiveness when appropriate, and turn towards loving ourselves.

Each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind, miraculous creation. We are created in God’s image. We are His children. Loving ourselves means not only remember who we are but what we can become. It means exchanging pain for peace, self-loathing for self-loving, criticism for kindness. As we begin to truly love ourselves, we open our hearts to receive the joy, happiness, and peace that God waits to give us.

For a few moments, reflect on the love that a caring parent feels for his or her child. Then try to multiply that love a million, billion, trillion times over. That is an infinitesimal amount of the love that God feels for you. Father John O”Donohue said, “May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”

© Carol Brown

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