“We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves…” (Holy Eucharist, Rite II, Book of Common Prayer)
I can make it through the Nicene Creed just fine (and not because I agree with all of it) but that line from the confession gets me every time. I beg to differ. The problem is not that we have not loved our neighbor but that we have not loved ourselves.
What is the nature of love? I Corinthians comes to mind- “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking…” But does that sound like the way you treat yourself? Can I look around the world and witness people being kind to themselves? When was the last time you were patient or kind with yourself? Have you been taught that you are worthy of love and kindness or that you are hopelessly lost, a foul creature dependent on the whimsy of an angry God for salvation from an eternity of pain and suffering?
I blame much of the Christian doctrine of self-hate on St. Augustine. But wherever it came from, one thing is clear- it has done a lot of damage for a very, very long time.
Love never comes from hate. Never. Hate, directed inwards at ourselves, turns our hearts to stone. That stony hatred gets reflected back out into the world and, if we are not loving our neighbors, I think this would be the reason why.
Love is patient. It is kind. Begin with that face you see in the mirror.
(© Karen Opp. All rights reserved.)