“Love thy neighbor… as thyself”

This past year I was introduced to a variation on the Ignatian examen. In reflecting on my day, I would ask these questions:
1. How was I able to give and receive love today?
2. How was I not?
3. What is the invitation? What am I being invited to do or to be?

What came to mind most quickly and with the most energy were the ways I was able or not able to give and receive love from myself. Spirit was inviting me to pay attention to how I was treating myself. I did not expect this. So much of my religious upbringing invited me to focus on (and improve) how I treat others. Practice kindness. Serve. “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” with the emphasis on the first part – love thy neighbor. Even today, it seems the assumption is we are already loving ourselves well. The assumption is we can separate how we treat others from how we treat ourselves. We can’t. We are able to love others exactly to the extent we are able to love ourselves.

I am able to accept, honor the needs and desires of, and respect you only to the extent I am able to accept, honor, and respect myself. I am able to serve you without needing you to respond in a certain way only to the extent that I am able to befriend my own imperfections. I am less interested in making comparison or trying to measure up as I discover myself as lovable. As I practice receiving love from myself, I am better able to receive love from God and neighbor. As I practice  gracing the wounded places in myself, I am better able to offer grace when my neighbor acts out of their woundedness. How I am in relation to myself shapes how I am in relation to others. I am only ever able to love my neighbor as well as I love myself.

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Yes and No

The past couple weeks I’ve been pondering the ways I say Yes and the ways I say No. And not so much the Big Decisions or the Opportunities that come along. Rather, Yes and No on a micro scale. Micro-acceptances, when my words and body language and intentions are all in harmony. When the message from me is one of value and respect. Or micro-rejections, those subtle cues I give that the Other is not really welcome. When the message from me is one of indifference or dismissal. Are there ways I keep people at a distance, building barriers around my welcome? How does this affect the hospitality of my being? How might I tend boundaries with an open heart?

Photo by Anita Peppers. Used with permission.

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Author of all wholeness, may my actions be true. Dismantle the barriers which block beauty and belonging. Build in me the courage to be a bearer your love. May my life speak grace and not judgement, kindness and not hostility, acceptance and not rejection. Amen.