But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Today I had the blessing of attending mass with Father Daniel Schuster. I’ve only heard FR Schuster preach a handful of times, but each homily he’s preached has moved me; to me FR Schuster is the real deal, a rock star among priests. Today’s homily was on becoming a sanctuary. Today’s homily rocked me to my very foundations.
The foundation of this homily was a Gospel reading from Matthew, Chapter 5. Matthew is my favorite New Testament work with chapters 5 – 7, The Sermon on The Mount being my favorite of all biblical writings. “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” WHOA. This hit me hard and in a new light. Love your enemies – and then it hit me — I’m my own worst enemy. Pray for those who persecute you – no one has every persecuted as painfully as I persecute myself. Who do you need to pray for Kenneth? You need to pray for you Kenneth. Not a prayer of vanity or a prayer of asking, but a prayer of forgiveness and love. “Help me God to forgive myself for the way I have abused and treated myself. Teach me to be more loving of myself so I may love others more fully. Fill me with light and illuminate my mind. Help me to be worthy to be a sanctuary.”
Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds. We all struggle with. Yes, we’ve all heard the saying “I am my own worst enemy.” But hearing this today was different. I heard this with my inner hearing – my spiritual ears.
“Your actions are your only true belongings.”
Instead of loving myself, I obsess over whether or not someone could find me loveable and used superficial targets to validate my existence—possessions, grades, jobs, friends, cash, and degrees for fancy coursework.
I feel like a voracious black hole of yearning. I consumed everything that was closest to me—food, love, validation — in an attempt to fill the void that I experience on a daily basis. That feeling of not being good enough, of seeking desperately for the last piece of the puzzle, the piece that would round me out and make me whole.
I micromanage those around me, offering help that has not been asked for, repairing others because I don’t have the courage to believe I’m repairable.
I require my own love and support. I need my actions to resonate with the deeply hidden spark thriving inside my spirit, that light that hopes someday I’ll come to retrieve it and be a worthy sanctuary.
Now, I often tell people that the spark inside of them, no matter how dim or deeply hidden, is like Tinker Bell as Tink’s light is being extinguished in Peter Pan. That, like Tinker Bell, that spark is enlivened and emboldened by the clapping and cheering and belief in its relevance – belief in yourself.
That spark represents your inner wisdom, your inner light — the light that will guide you directly toward a life that is tailor-fit to your specifications, a life that is in harmony with all, a life that is worth of being a sanctuary.
And yet, there are times when I doubt its integrity, I doubt myself, favoring instead the words and programs and gospel of experts and gurus, wanting desperately to be fixed, to be whole.
There are those days where I’m certain that if I just read enough or I’m kind enough, that I will be transformed into a person deserving of a beautiful life, deserving to be a sanctuary.
I forget I am the one that I am waiting for.
Who looks outside, dreams;
who looks inside, awakes.
Carl Gustav Jung
So how do you shift this perception? You do the work.
We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy. Loving ourselves isn’t a onetime event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process. It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation. So despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourself – LOVE YOURSELF.
The best way to create this is to begin your day with love, not technology – don’t start your day with email, voice mail or Good Morning America; turn the phone off. Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.
Take time to pray, mediate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Pray is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. Begin with 5 minutes of pray and meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.
Journal to remember all the times you’ve been your best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Break these moments down into distinct parts, like a chemist in a lab distilling the most significant components. If there was a place that felt injured or broken or if you can’t think of a time, give yourself the permission to imagine what might feel really good there. Let yourself dream.
Take that list and boil it down to five needs. My five daily needs are: adequate sleep, plenty of hydration, spiritual study, moving my body, and silence. Those are the five ingredients that I could provide myself to concoct a truly supported and nourished day where my body felt whole, my mind felt alive and my spirit felt encouraged. Your list might look radically different than mine, but the importance is that it is something that works for you. Try to meet those needs in whatever way you see fit, however imperfect or intermittent.
Over time, you’ll begin to see yourself as a person worth loving. You’ll begin to believe you deserve a life that is deeply immersed in and led by your own inner wisdom and self-love.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters
compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yes, I know; learning self-love isn’t easy. I look at it this way. Throughout the day, I’m confronted with many opportunities to disregard or attune to my feelings, to judge or to honor them, to keep commitments and be responsible to myself, and to act in accordance with my needs, values, and feelings. I have an opportunity to learn self-love all the time. Every time I talk myself down, doubt myself, exhaust myself, dismiss my feelings or needs, or act against my values, I undermine my self-esteem. The reverse is also true. I will make healthier choices, because you and I will both benefit from this.