In the words of Jesus Christ, the second most important commandment for us is this: “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” While this statement is often interpreted as a simple command to be nice to our fellow men, I believe that it goes so much deeper than that. This is a remark on the state of the human consciousness and how it affects our actions.
Upon first glance, this ‘loving thy neighbour as thyself’ phrase brings to mind the golden rule- acting towards others in a way that you would like them to act towards you. But, let’s examine the phrasing, especially the word ‘love’. How many people truly love themselves? Not many. Psychologists estimate that the person you are most likely to criticize is yourself. It seems as though if we all treated each other as poorly as we treated ourselves, the world would be even meaner and nastier than it now is.
Why is that? At the core of every human soul is discomfort with who we are. This is what drives negative feelings like anxiety and depression, but it is also what drives positive actions like self-correction and motivation, because we want to change. While we only see the exterior of others lives, we know the full story of our own. We know all our mistakes, our inadequacies, our weaknesses. With that knowledge, we struggle to love ourselves. We punish ourselves by amplifying our mistakes and not allowing ourselves to improve. This is why people are more likely to give their dog medicine than to take their own medicine- their dog, having less sin, is surely more worthy of it then they are.
However, this guilt and shame that holds us back is not righteous. God has said: “Vengeance is mine.” That includes inflicting vengeance on yourself as much as on others. Trust God to make things right instead of trying to do so yourself. Beating yourself up would be just as bad as beating up another person, because we are all divine in some aspect. We came from the most Divine, and have the capacity to become like Him, because we are His children.
You are important to the world, and you have a crucial role to play in this life. So, you need to learn how to treat yourself in a way that is most likely to help you become a good person. If spending an hour alone helps you love yourself more, then invest the time and do it! If you are involved in negative self-talk because you don’t feel worthy, then put in the effort and stop it!
The second commandment is more like a math equation than a nice catchphrase. Essentially: Our capacity to love others = our love for ourselves. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to truly love others. So, if you want to change the world and help other people, love yourself first. Strengthen yourself, your vision, and your confidence. Remember your roots and your heavenly heritage. Let go of your guilt. Treat yourself like you would treat someone you love.
This is a post written by Dallin Clements, a recently returned missionary passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives through the application of gospel concepts.