Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves in Matthew 22:39.
I read that scripture for the first time when I was nine, but it didn't apply to me in the literal sense. When I was growing up, I lived in the middle of nowhere, West Virginia, and the nearest neighbor lived a mile away.
It didn't take long before I learned that, yes, it did indeed apply. Loving your neighbor might look like your next-door neighbor, but it's also friends, coworkers, and anyone you come in contact with on a regular basis. It might even be perfect strangers.
But how? How do we love our neighbor well?
I started a podcast this year and the theme for February was relationships and loving well. Episode 3 was loving God well, Episode 4 was loving your spouse well, Episode 5 was loving your kids well, and Episode 6 was loving your friends well.
But neighbors? Those who maybe don't have much in common with us, who feel near the bottom of our list when there are so many others in our corner to love on? How? Scripture gives us the very simple answer: by loving them as we love ourselves.
It's so easy to take that verse, say okay, and move on.
But what does it look like when we love ourselves? Are we loving ourselves well?
Not long ago, I contacted a friend from college. We don't talk often, but I felt led to ask her to pray for me. I don't do that much, but I could feel the weight of life pressing in, and when that happens, the people in my corner feel the pressure, too. I didn't want that, so I asked for prayer. She told me she'd pray, but she also asked three questions.
1. Are you taking time together just the two of you? Check.
2. And taking time to be together as a family? Check.
3. And what about you? As women, we handle a lot. It's important to detox from the "busy-ness." Gulp.
This friend is such an encouragement to me, and I could feel the love in her questions. She's also walking through a similar season as me, so I knew I could trust her to speak a little truth.
My podcast is called Making The Time, but I have such a hard time slowing down and choosing not to be busy. It takes intention.
I'm not talking about being self-absorbed, because there are certainly lines that can be crossed, but I'm talking taking a little time here and there to do one thing that's not work related, mothering related, ministry related, etc.
Sometimes I forget to love myself because I'm managing so much.
Last year, I gave my testimony on trust and on loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. And I asked those listening: but how? How do we love ourselves?
I'm giving you my list below, but I'm adding one more to the end that I sometimes miss in the busy seasons of life.
Loving our neighbor requires loving ourselves. And when we love ourselves, we, in turn, pour out on all relationships much more effectively.
6 Ways To Love Ourselves
Set high standards. When we make a mistake, we get frustrated with ourselves. We try to do good, good, good, and more good, and then it just takes one wrong move and we become frustrated. If we love ourselves, we get frustrated when we sin, when we do something wrong, get something wrong. It’s okay to get a little frustrated as long as we don't stay there.
Give grace. We make mistakes, but there’s a future. God loves us and Jesus has cleansed us through his blood. We give ourselves margin to do better next time.
Forgive. If Jesus can forgive me, I need to forgive me. Holding on when we've been forgiven is like holding on to a blanket that desperately needs washed. We must let go of what is weighing us down.
Gravitate toward those who care. Not judgmental or hateful or throw our past up in our face. People who love us. Wrap their arm around us. Encourage us. Listen to us. Speak truth to us in love, like my friend did the other day.
Think positively of ourselves. We won't sit around and think “woe is me.” We won’t wallow. We won’t allow self-doubt. We will live a life that brings us joy and brings joy to others by seeing the good in ourselves.
Make time for yourself. We will allow ourselves time to "fill our cup," as my friend put it the other day. For me, that looks like going outside and getting fresh air, taking a shower, and doing something just for me and the care of self and soul. It's okay to choose reading over dishes sometimes. Do one thing that makes you feel more you. Only you know what that is.
In all the responsibilities we hold, it's hard to make the time for those we love. If you'd like a little encouragement on loving the people in your corner well, then you can find Making The Time Podcast at the following:
iTunes Stitcher SoundCloud
These episodes are short and to the point on purpose. In listening, I never want you to feel overwhelmed that you can't keep up. Life is busy. So fold your laundry while you listen. Podcasts make those mundane tasks much more exciting!