This is a very personal description of a great discovery about self-love and the teachings of Jesus and the ten commandments.
About twelve years ago (1997), I was recovering from divorce. It turned out to be one of the most challenging times in my life. This process literally took years. I am not sure why I drug it out so long, but that was just the process. I mostly felt myself to have been a failure as a father. Not upholding the social agreement of marriage, mostly for the sake of my son.
I struggled a great deal financially, probably a form of self punishment. I also had periods of deep sorrow- even so far as contemplating the end of my life. I never went so far to actually do anything, just going to that place of desperate resignation. The most profound of these times I actually went to the place of no feelings. Ambivalence, numbness, not caring. That I discovered is a much more desperate and dangerous place than anger or depression.
When I was at the lowest place I was in my apartment and I picked up the Bible. Now, I have never read the Bible to any great extent. I have tried a number of times, but found the language difficult to comprehend. Plus I have come to believe that much of the greatest truths to have been culled out. However, I still believe that it is filled with great wisdom and truth, it is just difficult for me to decipher what might have been added or deleted. Not the best use of my time, this is my opinion.
However, on this occasion I opened up the book at random, dropped my finger on the passage where the disciples are asking Jesus to speak on the commandments, I remember reading "and what of the ten commandments"? And Jesus's response, in my recollection "There are only two. Love God with all your being. And Love your neighbor as yourself".
Reading this caused great realizations for me, and insights on my perspectives on love of self, and also my access to the love of God. You see, I read in that passage in the Bible, having a scientific mind, a case of deductive reasoning. The bottom line, or the basic challenge of Jesus' message relates to Self love. The deduction, or the leap of reasoning comes because he did not mention three points - 1) Love God, 2) Love Yourself, and 3) Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. The second step in this reasoning is missing.
Why? I assume that Jesus "assumed" that we would love ourselves. But is this the case in our world? I think mostly not. For many reasons - one is that it has become "tabu" in many ways to "Love ourselves" (e.g. narcissism, arrogance, selfishness).
However, as I have since discovered, if I don't harbor Love in my heart for myself, how can I truly Love others? And I am not talking about "selfish" love. I'm talking about the Love for God and for all others. For if I truly Love Andy in the true sense of Love then I do not have to worry about selfish love. My brother-in-law many years ago (1981) confronted me on this. I think I said something him to about loving my girlfriend more than I loved myself. And he replied, "Andy how can you expect others to Love you, if you don't Love yourself?" This I have realized over the years is one of the most powerful questions a person can ask - either of themselves, or of a dear one.
This reverie from the quote from Jesus made me think why I might have arrived at the point of not Loving myself. I thought that it probably had something to do with pain - and pain being a sign of being excluded from God's Love, which to me is the greatest fear. Much greater than the fear of death. (a little digression, imagine the world of people living day to day their greatest fear as their truth!)
I thought back to my first unconscious "comprehension" of God - which would have been my parents. They were bigger than me, took care of all my needs, protected me, loved me. But did they love me when they punished me? I think I came to understand/feel that when I did "bad", I was being excluded from Love. When I felt pain, either external or internal, I began to separate myself from Love. I began to believe that I could actually do something and become un-Lovable. A ridiculous notion as I understand today, but for most of my life I believed, I felt this. As my friend Tom says "little Andy", had programmed this idea into the very core of my being. This is the idea that the church has placed on us. The idea of "original sin", or at least the way that I interpreted it. And, if I look at many people in the world, I think others believe it too.
In any case, I examined this idea of doing things, and being "out of Love". And it explained my behaviors. You see, once I was out of Love, or had excluded myself consciously, it doesn't matter. Bad in degrees is immaterial. And, because of the internal pain, the need to blot it out became more and more necessary. Thus, in my case, I turned to drugs and alcohol as a young person. However, at the time of this experience reading the Bible, in 1997, I had been 16 year sober.
I think I somehow got the idea or belief that if I felt pain, I wasn't being Loved. Of course it started with my parents, but then I think it extended to God, and of course to everyone. Because, how or why would I feel pain (which is "bad") if I was Loved?
Pain is a sign of being a "sinner" and "sinners" can't be Loved by God, right? Because we have to become an "un-sinner" for God to really Love us, right? We have to become totally clean to be accepted into the Love of God. And this only happens when you "do something", and are transformed into being "white as snow". But if I feel pain inside, then I feel that I am the same. I know that this is not the case, and this seems like a very childish way of understanding. However, I think this childish "program" was actually running in my life - it explained my behaviors.
In truth, I do not think God condemns. It is a man made construct, like so many other concepts that have imprisoned us - but these are OK, because there is a purpose to all.
I also realized at this moment that pain is not "bad". It is merely an aspect on a continuum. And, in actuality, it can be very, very good. In fact, it was deep and desperate pain that lead me to "no pain", no cares, no feeling which was the stimulus for all of these epiphanies about "Self Love". And in that moment, and in previous moments, I realized that "pain" can be exquisite. And then I wasn't sitting in judgment about my feelings, about my actions, which would result in me being excluded from God's Love, which is not possible.
Whether I consciously bought into the idea of "sin" and condemnation, I think at some level I believed that I had done things that had placed me out of God's Love. Divorce.
Abandoning my son (this was my "programmed" belief). Having a tendency to be somewhat of a "womanizer". But this actually tied to my own condemnation of myself. It became a self fulfilling prophecy. It was like, OK, I'm already a "screw-up" (a sinner) so fuck it! And I had come to believe that I was the kind of person to do those things. So, if I believe myself to be that kind of person, how could I do anything else? But in reality all I was doing in that process was trying to find love. Love from others. Love to fill the void in me. But no other person can ever fill that void. Because that was a void created by my lack of Love for my Self.
And I think Loving my Self first is actually one of the most gracious things that I could ever do. I am God's first gift to me. To my person. This physical, spiritual and intellectual being was God's gift to me first. And from there, all other expressions arise, at least in my conscious experience.
I realized this in another way a few years ago when I heard the song by Bad Company "Feel like making Love". I realized that we are supposed to be "Love factories". But how could I generate Love if I don't have the first ingredient - Love for the being, the gift that God gave me - me, myself and I. Isn't it a tremendous lack of gratitude to not love what God gave me, first?
Through all of this thinking I realized that "Self love" was to "Love God with All My Being" - and that if I could accomplish Self Love in the most pure and profound way, then "Love Others as Your Self" would flow naturally and effortlessly. That was the "missing deduction" in Jesus's statement about there only being two commandments.
I also realized that maybe, these feelings, were God experiencing itself through me. I imagined my joys, sorrows, and the agelessness of the feelings. I imagined how my body, and my mind seem to age, but my feelings don't. I thought of the loves and deepness of those profound feelings that I had experienced in my life and felt that that truly was a God living through me. And those forces are the ones that have motivated me, truly to seek Love with all my being. To be Love in all ways that I can.
So what next? Forgiveness. Yes, but if God doesn't condemn why would I need forgiveness?
I don't really know, but for me at that (and this) moment, the forgiveness was to know that God's Love was immediately available to me - all-ways, always. It happened to me long ago when I realized my life was in the "shitter", I was a drunk and a junkie, mostly because of my dishonesty with myself. When I had this realization that dishonesty had created my twisted little life, and admitted I was lying, and committed to take a different path, and said the prayer "God help me". My life began to be totally different.
All I had to do, I guess, was to accept the Love to flow. It was there waiting. I didn't grow any new Love acceptance organs.
Oh, you may be thinking, why do I say that God doesn't judge - well for me, it's about Love. Love Loves it doesn't judge. And if God is Love then God doesn't judge. God just Loves.
So what I had to do at that moment was look at Andy, and see him for who he was, and just appreciate that he never meant to hurt anyone - on purpose. That many times he was confused, and did things that resulted in apparent "problems" but that those really don't matter to Love. That no matter what I think that I do that is bad, and no matter how bad I might feel, I am always Loved by God. Period. There is no way out of it. It is everywhere and always.
And today, I have learned more and more about my feelings and their connection to the Divine. That they are actually the "program" the "guidance system" that I was given in order to know how to avoid doing the things that were contrary to my, and others, best interest. But I didn't learn this until about 2 years ago.