Day Twenty-Nine of 365 – How to Love Your Neighbor

Although part of my professional background includes several years serving people as a Christian minister, I work hard to avoid writing anything that remotely sounds “preachy.” I came by my entrance into the field of ministry in that I was a PK growing up. What’s a PK you ask? It is short for Preacher’s Kid. Yep! I’m one of those! As I pondered my exit from high school and public education, I found myself wondering what to do with my life. I struggled with this decision and finally succumbed to a natural default. I chose to pursue something with which I had some history. I at least knew a little about what to expect. My marriage to traditional ministry ended in 1984. I now refer to myself as a “Recovering Bapticostal” with the primary emphasis on “Recovering!”

I have worked to build for myself a functional spirituality that embraces the tough challenges of life with an openness to input and wisdom from multiple sources. One would have difficulty determining from which Faith of belief system I draw most if they examined my jewelry. One one finger I wear a ring that bears Hebrew, on the other hand, I wear a ring that presents a cross and around my neck, I wear a pendant displaying a Native American spiral with spiritual significance.

All that being said, I also work to read and understand wisdom literature from multiple sources. From time-to-time, I use a bit of wisdom from one of many sources as a point of inspiration for my posts and articles. Today, I want to draw from a quote found in Christian Scripture. Historically, the most often quoted translation says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I have found many times in my life that older translations sometimes fail to reflect the more profound meaning of a passage. Through the years, I have heard many use this particular translation as a way to tell followers to place others above themselves in service. Now as much as it might ruffle some feathers of any small number of folks who might read this, I have to disagree with that translation and interpretation.

I much prefer a translation that comes from my own personal struggle with interpreting the Greek Language back in college. While looking at this particular verse in class, we all discovered that the most honest and direct translation goes something like this, “Love your neighbor in the same manner as you love yourself.” Go ahead! Re-read that. “Love your neighbor in the same manner you love yourself.” Often, in therapy sessions, I bring this particular thought into the conversation and ask what my client thinks this means. More often than not, he/she will  lead with words that talk about loving others above self. I then ask them to write it down as I repeat it. Then I ask them to tell me where the beginning point of love is. After a few moments and almost without fail, they come back and say, “It says that I must love myself first.”

You see, most of us DO love our neighbor (i.e., spouse, children, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.) in the same manner we love ourselves, and therein lies the problem. We don’t really love ourselves very much. We often wind up treating those closest and dearest to us as if they are “less than” or unworthy of respect or lacking in personal decency. We “love them in the same manner we love ourselves, which is not very well.

Learning about and focusing on self-care and self-love can help us understand the manner in which our neighbor desires to be treated – need to be loved. Here’s a challenge: The next time you find yourself feeling angry toward, put out with or upset by the behavior of your “neighbor,” pause a moment and think about this admonition. What in that person reflects an area in your own life that you have a hard time accepting? What part of you does this reveal a need for a little self-love and attention?

My guess is that if we were to begin, even just a little bit, to examine the quality of our self-love and work to love ourselves better, our neighbor would benefit greatly. Why you ask? Because we will be “Loving our neighbor in the same manner we are loving ourselves.” Think about it, won’t you?


Mark E. Hundley

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