In Which Love Is Inward-Facing Also

There are so many things in modern society that make people feel unloved and unlovely. Ugly and unworthy of being loved fully. Fixated on supposed flaws and unable to see themselves as unbelievable human beings. Whether we feel guilty because we just ate fast food for the second time this month, un-beautiful because we’re not stick thin, unforgiven and fallen because we’ve committed some “sin” that’s been drilled into us from childhood, or alone because we cannot bear the thought of being social in our current state, it’s too easy to find faults with ourselves.

This feeling unloved, I think, makes us actually unable to fully give and receive love. We cannot completely believe that someone means it when they say they love us, and we are special, and we have nothing to worry about. We believe instead that they love only part of us, and we are common, and there are always things over which to worry. Because we cannot believe that someone would love us completely, and we don’t love ourselves completely, we cannot know what complete love is and so we cannot give it to someone else either. We are always holding back, always hesitant of truly being honest because we’re afraid it will make the other person love us less. We are afraid of sinning, afraid of letting go, afraid of being alone and unloved and unforgiven. Afraid… afraid… afraid.

But love and grace do not work like that. Full love is unconditional love, and it goes both ways. We must learn to love ourselves as we are, not only in the superficial way of “own your curves, girl!” and that sort of thing, although that is a step toward full love if that’s a problem for you, but we must be willing to see ourselves not as flawed, ugly, unlovable people but as beautiful and worthy of the best from ourselves and others. Yes, we always make mistakes. Yes, we always need forgiveness. But also remember that yes, we are human and that means that we are practically created to make those mistakes. We are a being that learns how to be itself through mistakes and through experiencing things, and through “sinning” every now and then. If we get too fixated on the things we think we’ve done wrong, or the things other people tell us we’ve done wrong, it only becomes a self-generated cycle in which we keep doing those things because we are human and feel worse and worse every time because we’re told to deny that humanity.

But… If we instead embrace our humanity, embrace our so-called flaws, embrace ourselves and the things which make us who we are, embrace our bodies and our minds and our relationships to each other, we can learn to love ourselves completely and see ourselves as an unbelievably great thing. The next step, then, is becoming able to fully love someone else. And it takes time. But it’s worth the time and effort, because if we are willing to be vulnerable enough to truly love ourselves and truly love and be loved by others, then we’ve transcended our humanity and begun to get a glimpse, however small, of something holy.

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