As we examine the seemingly increasing states of violence in the world (are they increasing…or does the media just make it look that way?), it is easy to point the finger of blame – it’s his fault, it’s her fault, it’s their fault. We are quick to make other people the enemy when in fact, we are the greatest enemy.
“WHAT…..how am I the enemy?” you might ask. It’s simple. WE are the greatest enemy because we do more harm to ourselves than we ever thought of doing to another human being. Hatred toward others ALWAYS begins with our hatred of ourselves. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he wasn’t issuing a commandment, he was making an observation. We do love our neighbor in direct proportion to the love we have toward ourselves. When we know ourselves and are comfortable in our own skin, we can’t help but treat others with kindness, compassion and respect. When we judge and condemn our selves for every little thing – how our hair looks today, what we are wearing, trying to hide our insecurities and imperfections from the world, etc. we judge the world likewise. When we cling to same and hold out for predictable, safe and orderly, the truth of our chaotic and unpredictable world makes us feel unsafe. Instead of loving ourselves in spite of our unease, we turn the finger of blame outward – “It’s their fault the world is in the state that it is in.” We’re busy shaming ourselves for being too afraid to ask for our needs to be met, so we lose our patience with our kids and yell at them for being….kids.
We are the enemy in all the ways we criticize, condemn, judge, shame, belittle ourselves and for all the ways we suppress the uncomfortable feelings within ourselves (anxiety, fear, sorrow, anger, resentment) because we judge them as “bad”. We are the enemy when we do these things, first, by doing harm to ourselves and second, for all the ways these feelings come out sideways in anger, hatred, intolerance, impatience, condemnation, toward others.
Healing the violence in our world starts by healing the violence within ourselves. We do this by learning to love ourselves. Here is a simply little practice you might try to begin that process of loving yourself without condition so that you are no longer the enemy to yourself first, and then to others.
Below is a prayer you may all be familiar with – The Prayer of St. Francis. In this practice, instead of using the prayer as intercessory (directed outward toward God or toward the world), turn it inward. With every phrase, turn the words toward yourself. (Here is a musical accompaniment for the song if you wish to attend to this practice through music…the prayer itself starts at 3:39 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrcn85_MPYI )
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Oh Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving (to ourselves) that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born into eternal life.
May we all learn to love ourselves without condition so that we can love the world in the same way – slowly and surely turning a world of fear into a world of love!
Lauri Ann Lumby, OM, MATS provides programs and services to support you in your journey of self- love and self-actualization. Call (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.