Maybe I'm not that bad
The “Golden Rule” is supposed to be simple. 1) Love God, with all of you, 2) love others, as much as you love yourself.
I’m a therapist. I have to say, I don’t think most of us love ourselves all that much. I work daily with folks working to challenge “negative self talk” – all the terrible, critical, shaming things we say to ourselves, but wouldn’t dare say to anyone else. So the language of the Golden Rule “to love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t turn out to be loving others wholly and fully if we struggle with self love. Perhaps the point is to love others AND ourselves, the way God loves us.
Here is a practice I use to imagine this love. First, I think of the most love I have experienced – whether it is being loved or loving someone else. For me, the most intense, pure love I can imagine is the love I have for my daughter. Then I imagine multiplying that love 10-fold – this is the love God has for me. It is hard to grasp someone loving and delighting in me more than I love my daughter, and so it takes a while to try to envision that. Imagining God’s love for us is the beginning of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises – to sit and try to absorb that abundant, expansive and extraordinary love. Then, I move from that place of being wholly loved by God and try to channel that love for others and for myself.
Last week a client who suffers with addiction said, “Maybe I’m not that bad.” He had an interaction with someone that reminded him of his worth, and it challenged his belief that he was bad, unworthy, unlovable, a mess-up. Maybe that is the challenge of the Golden Rule – to remind others that they are whole and lovable. To love people when it is tough, when they have wronged us or have been ignorant. To love people when we want to crawl back into our own skin because we feel vulnerable or afraid. The call is also to allow others to remind us we are lovable. This means letting people love us when we make mistakes or feel embarrassed, when we don’t get the job or perform or produce or look the way we would like. To allow people to love our unfiltered, unedited, unpolished selves.
I’m not that bad, you’re not that bad, because God made us good. Maybe, we’re all just here to remind one another of our goodness, and help one another see ourselves with the joy and delight that God sees us.