Love of Self: The Grounded Soul
Love of Self as used in the Greatest Commandment does not mean narcissism, ego, self-absorption, greed, hubris, hedonism or self-righteousness. Would those be born of love? No. Would those increase love? No! Instead, Love of Self is a quiet grounding in intrinsic self-worth, ability, resourcefulness, peace, joy, connection, sharing—and it is in this sense that the term will be used.
In at least some traditions, Self has been marginalized or even deprecated. And yet it is one of the three interconnected pillars of the Greatest Commandment. Its importance to our daily walk is multifold.
1. Healthy Self, Healthy Life.
A grounding in intrinsic self-worth provides confidence, ability, direction and purpose in our path. It connects with Self: that which we have within; that which we have to share.
A positive self-image enhances energy, interaction and joy in life. It speaks optimism. It provides fortitude and courage in adversity, a rod against the forces of negativity. It is an inner calm and peace: a sense of security and well-being. Self-grounding breathes in resilience, creativity, purpose, value.
As grounded caring people, we appreciate and use our gifts for good. They are resources and guides along the way. A strong grounding in self-worth provides defenses and resistance to unhealthy habits, people and circumstances that might otherwise undermine the experience of life or diminish the unique creation that is us. A grounded self helps us explore, reach out, test the new. Grounding provides fertile soil for a fulfilling existence.
Grounding does not mean a life without challenges. It means we are better able to address them. We are better able to process mistakes, regrets, disappointments, since they occur in the context of the many greater, stronger realities that we are. We learn and adapt. We do not give up. Challenges grow us.
2. Healthy Self, Healthy Connections.
The grounded Self is better able to love, support and interact with others, thereby serving the second pillar of the Greatest Commandment: Love of Others.
We have inner energy and resources. We have experiences, strengths, wisdom, talents. Knowing our strengths helps to guide our efforts. Confidence encourages their use. We have something of value to give. We have purpose beyond our four corners. Our potential is realized in the extension of Self to others.
A grounded Self promotes a positive view of others: one steeped in respect and understanding. They have strengths, experiences and gifts to share just like us. They will be there for us, as we are for them.
Those we touch are enriched by our outreach and attitude. They are supported, and encouraged by example to pass love forward. They are grounded by our care and love as we are by theirs. We are part of a community.
3. Healthy Self, Healthy Faith.
Grounding facilitates a positive relationship with a deeper reality of which we appear to be a part. We are created as something good and loving. That implies a loving creative force: something we might want to know rather than fear or reject.
Honoring Self physically, emotionally and mentally, combined with outreach in love of others, honors the higher creative force, however experienced, by appreciating, taking care of and using the gifts entrusted to us: life, love, intelligence, strength, resilience, care. If we have prayers or meditations, let them be steeped in gratitude for life, connection and the opportunity to share.
And let us not forget that Love of Self is required by internal consistency in the Greatest Commandment itself. Do we “love” others if they are defective sinners like us? Do we “love” a god if we envision him as a thing which creates defective beings under clouds of judgment and damnation? We may fear him. But love? Let love be love at both the human and spiritual levels. That is the clear intent of the Greatest Commandment.
So, how do we best till a grounded Self? Consider the following as potential approaches. They also apply to Love of Others, but that is in the next section. At this time, we will simply focus on the foundation of Self.
The ABC’S of Love.
- Acknowledge, Appreciate and Apply gifts, strengths, experiences and talents. This is not conceit, but rather an inventorying of resources that can be used for good of Self and Others. If we run across a few warts or mistakes, that is okay. We can be aware of, learn, fix and/or contain them.
- Build. Do. Be. Build. Learn. Laugh. Explore. Do not be stagnant water. Moving water is much happier and alive. Life is a process of “living”: a process of constant change, renewal, experience, growth and action. Why become stale? There is no time.
- Care. Care for Self. Maintain Self. Adopt healthy practices and responses to life events. Exercise Self-kindness, Self-Compassion, Self-Encouragement. Extend care, comfort and support to others. Giving gives back in self-worth and purpose even as it builds connections in love. Receive care, comfort and support with gratitude and grace. Even the well-grounded soul needs the nourishment of connection and care from time to time.
- Share. Realize that which we have and are by extending ourselves to others, even as they share with us. Sharing breathes purpose, worth and connection.
- Morning Honors. Upon waking, spend a moment asking “What one thing can I do today to Honor Self?” The practice will set the tone and at least one project for the day. The practice can be extended to Others and God, but be sure to include Self as well. You are worth it.
- Mantras. For many, mantras and affirmations help steer the day. “I have peace, joy, value.” “I am health, energy, intelligence.” “The day is what I make it.” “I am loving, loved, lovable.” Develop one or more key mantras that resonate. Remember always the tests of love as a type of mantra: (1) Is it born of love; (2) Does it increase love; (3) Does it honor Self, Others, God? They are beacons along our path.
- Meditation and Prayer. Renew in their quiet, rest, hope and insights.
- Gratitude. Make it an active practice, in all things, throughout the day—even in response to challenges. Challenges teach and grow us in many ways. It is hard to be dour and thankful at the same time. A life of gratitude is a life of abundance, a life steeped in joy. It focuses on that which we have, not what we lack.
- Trust. In Self. Prudence is certainly fine, but check negativity and doubt in their tracks. Review and apply the inner store of goods, talents and learnings. Some challenges and mistakes there may certainly be along our path. Treat them as opportunities to grow, learn and share, not weeds of doubt. Perhaps make self-trust a morning honor: “I trust in my wisdom, creativity, resilience, strength, adaptability, reliability and inherent goodness.”
- Connection. Though communication, active listening, comfort, support, encouragement, companionship, guidance (in love), interaction: both ways. We flourish in the embrace of others.
- Honesty, Integrity and Steadfastness. In all things. Lies do not love. Love does not lie.
Love of Self is our paddle in the water. It is the foundation from which we can honor others consistent with the Greatest Commandment. It honors a loving God both by doing His work, and valuing, using and nurturing the gift that is “us.” Far from something that should be deprecated, Love of Self is an essential component in the mix.
Consider the following response to the question of “Who am I?”
I am in part that which is within me.
I am in part that which I share.
I am, in part, a part of the whole.