Posts Tagged ‘Self-love’

“Green is a restful color,” she said. We were sitting in a kitchen in Washington, D C in the spring. The view outside, gorgeous green.

“Yes, so you might not want to do your yard back in San Diego in xeriscape,” I said. “No green, no rest — for your psyche.”

There isn’t enough anyway, anywhere, green or rest.

Our deep selves are like the seas in Albert Pinkham Rider oils that I saw in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art yesterday, all dark, tossed and stormy — threatening too. Perhaps we disapprove of ourselves and others too much.

We look through an imperfect spyglass. No inward, stormward peering eyes are 20/20. All human eyes critique, out of focus. We look out and see other people’s thunderstorms. We look in and see terrifying oceans. Better than anyone else, we see our own conflicted selves. Men in containers lost in wind-blown seas see what only the boated, angled and near-tipped selves can see — disaster coming!

Once, broken over her disabled condition, my daughter told me, “I hate myself.” We both wept. More tragicified salt water. What else was there to do?

I think God may see differently.

Perhaps we haven’t noticed but God is much less judgmental than we are. He rides the wind above our inner storms. His patience with our distubifying selfishness, greed, lust and brazen indifference is one of the the most obvious things about him.

Perfection is more relaxed with imperfection than imperfection is with itself. God looks at us, sees it all, and loves.

God sees us, within the forgiveness gifted us in Christ, as pure and good and even perfect. We have trouble agreeing with him.

But God is right about us. In Christ, riding in his sound, safe, shuttered, sea-worthy craft, the sea calms, and we rest. He places to our eye an accurate glass to look in and out at what he sees, and we see for the first time, good, in focus.

Can you be good with seeing yourself and others as good?

If so — then you too will see spring greens, and rest.

P1030619When I was little, I found a safe place high up in a tree near my house.

The first time I climb that tree I saw that above me, higher up and near the top, were grape vines tangled in the branches. I climbed higher, and I saw that the vines formed a kind of roof over me, and so I poked my hands and then head through the leaves and netted vines,  and there found a kind of vine nest, a skyfort — hidden in an upper world.


I climbed up, and into it, and I laid back, and I floated on my back far off the ground, and I put my hands behind my head, and I looked up at the blue sky, and no one walking by knew I was there lounging above.

That place has stayed with me. Last year, I had the chance to go  back to where I grew up. The skyfort isn’t there any more, but my need for it remains. I still find myself ferreting out somewhere where I might be alone and feel safe for a moment and watch the world pass by below. I need such a place. We all do and if we don’t find it, we go crazy looking for it.

My office, at my work, is a bit of this  kind or place for me, where I meet with people and help them. My bedroom, at home, is such a place for me, where I write and play my guitar and talk to my wife. These places are good, but they are not enough, nor will they ever be.

I spoke to someone recently who isn’t okay —  no skyfort, no place up above it all, where they can go and feel okay. This person has a home, but there is still no place to get away from what he has done and especially what he has not done and fundamentally and intrinsically from the rejection of himself by himself.

“Hold me,” my daughter said to me recently, and so I held her, my own flesh and blood, close, safe, in the arms that have no harm in them but only want to protect and comfort and rescue. And then she let down and rested.  She was safe there, leaning back into her nest of  not-aloneness that exists within the not-aloneness of my care, where she can lounge and  watch the world go by and be okay.

We’re all looking for that kind of okay, but most of us don’t find enough of it. I know I don’t. My daughter either.

Life for all of us is less that we hope for in our moments of hoping and dreaming and imagining what might yet be there somewhere above us.

Needy, we tend to climb life, unrested, looking for a vine-net of affirmation, but usually all we get is a bunch of criticism, a pack of rules and a parcel of lies. They tend to shove us  back, away from each other, and toward the ground. We experience the “not good enough” in the very places we hoped for “your all I ever hoped for.” Even in the places we expected to find the web of understanding, places like marriage, home, church and school, we meet the cool eyes of distancing disapproval.  And then in anger and stubbornness we retreat and sniff out alternate places, dangerous and harmful places of escape and avoidance and brain numbing stultification. Yet these places are not nearly strong enough to hold off the harsh judgments of our peers and of ourselves.

There seems to be no place, to make us okay, because in no place do we find unconditional acceptance.

Except one.

Where is that?

It is in God.

God only, Christ only, accepts the unacceptable heart when it comes to him broken and unacceptable and self-rejected and allows itself to be forgiven, lifted up and held close. There is no other place to go to be okay. No human arms, no social success, no known substance, no  wealth, no hidden tree fort, nothing on the planet or in the universe that can erase the loneliness incumbent in our own failure to love and be loved. This only happens  in God.


One place.

God is the one place in which we unacceptable persons may  begin to be acceptable again. He is a safe place in which  a new okayness can be found,  from which we can begin to recover and look out and gather strength and live and love ourselves and others once again.


He is a skyfort.


Posted: March 8, 2011 in thriving
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Pride is complicated stuff.

How’s that? Because it’s about thinking we are better than other people and about thinking we are worse.

It is both, because pride is essentially being overly focused on oneself, making oneself the center, the core, the issue.

Pride puts its nose in the air and says, “Look at my hot car, or body or house or wife or personality or whatever.”

And pride puts its nose down, low, and says, “Look at what a mess I am, and look at how badly I feel.”

This too is a kind of pride because it is all about me or you or whoever is super-focused on themselves.

To really understand pride, we must realize that it is a fiction. Pride is a restoried, manufactured, studied, fictionalized version of reality that we write for ourselves. It takes the story of our life, and rewrites it with our self as the protagonist, the hero, the heroin, the star.

To really understand it might help to see that pride is a lot like a card game.

Life deals us cards. As we grow up, we look over our hand to see what cards we got.  And then, we select our high card, and we begin to play it, for a win, for a winning of  love and money and approval. Our high card  may be our personality, our looks, our smart mouth, our money, our social status, our race, our parents, our attitude, our whatever. There are many high cards, different in value in different contexts, and the cards become high or low, depending on how we and others see them.

This is fine, normal, and this is not so fine, this card game, when pride enters the game. It is not cool,  to play ourselves too much, to  game ourselves, to story game ourselves, to restory ourselves, to dominate, to win by making others lose. It is not cool when we flaunt our cards, when we use them to use other people, to get what we want, to beat down the competition into submission to our superiority.

But this game, the high card game, the game of who is better than who, is played all the time. People get into it or they spend a lot of energy trying to get away from it.

A person who has worked hard on being humble, may then be proud of not being proud. Wow! Tough sledding, the downhill run away from the self.

What to do?

About the only cure for pride is not to think of it at all —  self, self-love, self-hate, dealing with self. The cure comes in turning away from all  of this to other selves. We lose pride when we find the other. We quit playing our high card when we think beyond the game, at what we will all do when we slide our chairs back from the table and go to lunch together.

This matters, the game after the game, the game without the game, the time when we gather to support each other, not to win or lose.

This matters.

The interesting thing is the the Bible sees dealing with pride as the central issue of life, because pride keeps us from God. And to persist in pride, can lead to  God opposing us

Proverbs 3:34 says that God “mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

Cool!  And not cool. If we mock the suposedly inferior, we will be mocked.

Interesting. Being proud will bring us down; keeping away from pride will put God on our side and pick us up.

Nothing better than that.

Think about it.

(Todays blog entry is just a discussion starter. What do you think? I invite you to add a comment.)


How To Thrive!

Posted: August 24, 2009 in thriving
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flower in the wall Love Yourself

Recently, for lunch, I had some delicious chicken tacos with a likeable friend. It was part of my work day. I have a cool job. Basically, I get paid to eat with people.

So, my friend and I were eating tacos and talking and I thought. I like this guy. He is comfortable with himself.  So I said, “You’re pretty relaxed around people. People seem to like you.”

I always compliment the people I eat with. It leads to better digestion. And maybe they’ll pay.

 “I wasn’t always comfortable with people,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked on.”  “Really,” I said, “It seems natural.”

“Yeah,” he said, “One day I when I was younger, I was bragging on something. A girl walking by overheard me and said to me, “You don’t think much of yourself, do you?” She kept on walking.

I thought, “Is she being sarcastic? Or does she think that I don’t like myself?” It got me to thinking. And after thinking on it, I realized: I didn’t think much of myself. And I decided I’d work on that.”

Looking at my friend, I thought: That worked! He’s transformed himself into a likeable person.

I like the narrative here. It rings real. I’ve noticed that I struggle with self-love, at least at some point or some area.  So do many of my friends. It’s something to work on.

After a making a mistake, I know I’ve said, “I’m so stupid.” Looking at one of my flaws in the mirror, I’ve said, “I hate the way I look.” After a public faux pas, and I’ve made them, I’ve thought, “I am such a social klutz.” Forgetting an appointment, my own inner voice has critiqued me:  “You are seriously losing it!”

Consider however, that many of the great thinkers of the world, those who have transformed history, have counseled self-love. Gandhi was committed to human dignity, self-respect and self-rule for India. Buddhist practice is called the “middle way,” between self-denial and self-aggrandizement. Jesus taught, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus assumed we love ourselves

In saying, “Love your neighbor as youself,”  Jesus was more specifically saying something like, ” You feed yourself, clean yourself, groom yourself, rest yourself, protect yourself. So feed, groom, rest and protect others in the same way. You overlook you own mistakes. Don’t jump on other people for theirs.”

I was with a person recently. I teased that not everybody in the world loved her. She quipped back, “If they don’t love me, there is something wrong with them.” I think Jesus would approve!

But for many people, self-love is a battlefield. 

A couple of thoughts come to mind. How do we love ourselves in healthy, appropriate ways?

Speak truth.

When tempted to say, “I’m a failure,” it would be more truthful to say, “I made a mistake. “When tempted to think, “I am a social klutz,’ it would be more truthful to say, “No I made a  blunder, but I’m not defined by one interaction.”

Gerald Ford gained a reputation as clumsy after several mishaps, driving his golf cart into a crowd, falling down the steps of Air Force One. Chevy Chase lampooned him for this on Saturday Night Live. The truth? Ford was very athletic.

At the University of Michigan, Ford played on two championship football teams, and he was named to the college all-star team. He turned down offers from the NFL. At one time or another, we will all need to fight for a truthful view of self

I’ve noticed that even seasoned older people have difficulty treating their souls with dignity and kindness.

Recently, I was with a very wise and accomplished lady, who has, in the last few years, lost her husband and a private grade school she helped create and direct. I sat with her in a preschool board meeting. The school is a remnant of her lost grade school. As we discussed a tough decision regarding some cutbacks in the preschool, she began to cry. “I just realized,” she said. “I’ve been so caught up in grieving the loss of my husband, I have never taken the time to grieve the loss of my school.”

Multiple losses – this is one of the signatures of aging. But do we know to give appropriate time and sacred space for recovery? It is a deep truth that we need to make sacred time to love ourselves by allowing ourselves time to grieve our losses.

If any of us saw a baby unattended and crying, we would go pick it up and we would speak soothingly to the baby. So when we cry, why don’t we go gently to ourselves, pick ourselves up, speaking soothing words of understanding and comfort?

Backing my SUV up a few years ago, I jarringly realized that a telephone pole had jumped out of its place and slammed into the back of my car.  $900 in damage resulted. I felt  stupid! “Why didn’t I see it coming?”  At home that day, not one harsh or critical word came from my wife. “We’ll just get it fixed. That’s why we have insurance,” she said. Her gentleness was theraputic for me. I dropped the complaint against myself that was beginning to breed something ugly in my mind.

But let’s take this further. Loving yourself isn’t an end in itself; it is a beginning. It is the beginning of loving others.  A healthy, true self, is a self that can love other selves. Thinking gently is  excellent, but being gentle with others is supreme.

In the United States in the 1980’s, there was a massive self-esteem school campaign. At its worst, everybody got an award certificate, whether they had done the work or not! The general consensus by the experts? That didn’t work.

Why? A proper sense of self must be based in part on real accomplishments. Remember: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love yourself and don’t love your neighbor, and you’ve got some kind of nasty form of selfishness and ego-centrism. It will rot the self.

Why do we feed ourselves? So we can feed others. Why do we need to get comfortable with ourselves? So we can be comfortable with others, so we will know how to help them be comfortable with themselves.

Last week I watched a woman giving away food. She glowed! Last week I saw a man pray for another man. They were living deeply in that moment. Last week, I saw a lady pick up a child and kiss it. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It is self-loving to love others. We all must end with this. We are a self to love another self.

Want to really make progress in self-respect? Go do something worthy of self-respect.