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Love thyself as thy neighbor

I’ve been trying to love me lately.

For some that’s easy. It’s not easy for me.

It started with a conversation with friends. One mentioned how important it is to love yourself. I thought back to my childhood and said, “I don’t remember anyone teaching me that when I was a kid. Not even at church.”

Another friend said, “The church I grew up in would have never told you to do that. It was all shame and guilt.”

I said, “Jesus loves you, but you shouldn’t?” He said, “I’ve never heard it put that way, but yes.”

Our other friend said, “I was taught in church the JOY method of love. You love Jesus, and then Others, and then Yourself. Biblically, you should love yourself. The Bible says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ So how are you supposed to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself?”

It was one of those “Aha!” moments for me. One of those things you hear that stays with you. One of those things you think about in the truck on the way home.

It made me ask a lot of questions of myself. Was I loving myself the way I want to love others? Was I doing things to myself that I wouldn’t want others doing to themselves?

Should I be treating my body in a way that I wouldn’t want my neighbor to treat theirs? I would never yell across the street “Hey Johnson! Don’t drink any water or eat any protein today. Have a Debbie Cake for breakfast and chase it with an energy drink, then get too busy to remember to eat lunch. I want you to be cranky and a little out of it by the time you get home. OK? Say hi to your mom for me!”

Would I ever be as discouraging to my neighbor’s passions as I can be to my own?

“Hey Johnson! You’re a terrible singer. People only say nice things about your writing out of pity. Thought you should know. See you around!”

I know I wouldn’t dare say to another the darker things my thoughts tell me. “Glad I caught you outside Johnson. Just need you to know you’re here by mistake and don’t deserve happiness. Oh, and I almost forgot, you’re a bad father, a bad husband and just generally a bad person.”

For many years now I have tried my best to let my words, actions and choices be loving to others. Since that conversation, I have applied that thinking to myself.

I’ve encouraged myself in my work. I’ve made healthier decisions, and I’ve tried to stop negative self-talk.

As silly as it sounds, I’ve been interrupting myself. I say, “Hey! We don’t talk to me like that.” I think of something positive I’ve done. I say something loving to myself. I’m almost starting to believe me.

I am loving myself as I love my neighbor. Soon I’ll be able to say, “Jesus loves me, and I do too.”

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.

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