Out of fear of sounding pathetic so close to Valentine’s Day, I decided to hold this column for an extra week. I simply didn’t feel qualified writing something about romantic love. I decided this year to write about the challenge of loving oneself, which reminds me of yet another favorite quote:
“The last time I saw him, he was walking down Lovers Lane holding his own hand,” comedian Fred Allen said.
Let me be clear here — self-love is not the same as being selfish. Self-love, more often than not, is about us doing hard things for our own good, rather than simply indulging our appetites and addictions.
“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on this earth to offer others,” said sociologist Parker Palmer.
Without true love for oneself, we will most certainly have nothing of quality to give others. We cannot possibly love others if we are incapable of loving ourselves. When we fail to truly love ourselves, we hold ourselves back and settle for the safety of a cage rather than seize the scary adventure of becoming who we truly are.
“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are,” publisher Malcolm Forbes wrote.
Selfishness, on the other hand, is about seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
Humor writer Jarod Kintz put it this way: “The first two letters of her name were M and E and I thought, Yes!
Finally, a name I can relate to.”
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands.
Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action,” wrote Daniel Goleman in his book, “Social Intelligence.”
Families, as St. John Paul II, pointed out, can also be crippled by selfishness.
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish,” the saint said.
Even churches, as the Rev. Billy Graham observed, can be built on selfishness.
“Many churches of all persuasions are hiring research agencies to poll neighborhoods, asking what kind of church they prefer,” he said. “Then the local churches design themselves to fit the desires of the people. True faith in God that demands selflessness is being replaced by trendy religion that serves the selfish.”
Balance is the key here, as the late 19th century author Ellen G. White noted: “Love exercised while duty is neglected will make children headstrong, willful, perverse, selfish and disobedient. If stern duty is left to stand alone without love to soften and win, it will have a similar result. Duty and love must be blended in order that
children may be properly disciplined.”
Father J. Ronald Knott