What does Matthew 22 : 39 REALLY say?
For most of us, when we read Matthew 22:39, we tend to focus on the first part - "Love your neighbour!" But that's not all it says. It says to "Love your neighbour, AS YOURSELF".
The implication here is that in order to love others, your neighbours, you first have to love yourself, and I don't mean in a conceited, selfish way.
So the secret to loving your neighbour, is loving yourself first.
What Does it Mean to Love Yourself?
I recently had the opportunity to attend Leadership Training, learning to become a leader of, and take responsibility for my own life. It wasn't at all what I had expected and I was totally unprepared for how it would impact my life. What I learned there has totally changed the way I see myself and as a result the world around me. Obviously I can't go into all the details here but I want to share some of my experience with you.
Up until recently I had allowed my past, and particularly my past hurts, failures, broken promises, both to myself and to others, to define me. The stories I often told myself were: I'm not worthy, I'm not smart enough, I'm not dynamic enough, I'm a fraud, who am I that people would want to listen to me? And so I could go on. I'm sure there are many of you who can identify. Essentially I was playing the role of a victim for most of my life. In short, most of the time I didn't like myself very much. Much less love myself.
During the leadership training however, I learnt that, instead of hating all the negative aspects of myself, which are all really just lies I told myself in reaction to things that have happened to me over the years, I should embrace them because they are just as much a part of who I am as all the positive, amazing parts.
I also learnt that people don't change, but the way we choose to react, and the things we choose to believe and say about ourselves do. When I understood that, it took so much pressure off me. I now know I don't have to become this radically different person and then beat myself up when I think I've failed.
Instead I get to embrace the true, authentic, flawed individual that I am, warts and all.
"True love is : The commitment to know, experience and contribute as deeply as possible to the growth of someone or something".
I want to add: "including yourself".
I am now committed to allowing myself to experience all the feelings that come up from time to time instead of beating myself up for feeling insecure or not worthy or whatever it may be, because they are part of who I am. I am committed to living my true authentic self, someone who is courageous, open and responsible. And as I am learning to love myself unconditionally, I am amazed at how it is impacting on the way I react and respond to others around me.
I truly believe that as I am learning to love myself, I am learning to love my neighbour as myself.
The Secret to loving your neighbour:
Learn to love yourself first.
Stop trying to change yourself, but rather embrace all of you. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Commit to becoming the person you were created to be, whatever that may be for you. It will be the exact opposite of the lies you've been telling yourself all these years.
For basically my whole life I have told myself I lack confidence, I am lazy and irresponsible (something I was told a lot as a child), I'm not dynamic enough. I'm not interesting enough...
No more, once I chose to stop believing the lies I've been telling myself, I could embrace the true, authentic me - courageous, open and responsible.
You can Too.
What lies have you been telling yourself? I'm not smart enough, I'm not educated enough, I'm not trustworthy, I can't communicate effectively? Whatever it is, ask yourself this question: "When God created me in my mother's womb, do I believe he was thinking "Let me create an unworthy, uneducated, unloving, insecure individual"?
I want to encourage you to give yourself some grace. Make some time to sit and think about what lies you've been telling yourself all your life and why, what happened to make you believe those things? Then ask the Lord to reveal the real you. And when he does, embrace that person, the positive as well as the negative. It is through your experiences, good and bad, that you will be able to identify with, reach out to and truly love your neighbour.
If you are curious about the leadership training I spoke about earlier, please feel free to contact me and I will happily share the details with you.