ALEX GRUBER | CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF
“You are loved and worthy of love.”
So I say to my friends – not as often as I should, for sure – to remind them of their intrinsic and incalculable worth as human beings and, in my belief system, children of God made in the divine image and likeness.
People often say that you cannot love others until you love yourself. I don’t believe that’s totally true.
Looking at many of the people I’ve encountered in my life and at myself, too, I’ve come to believe that you can be quite generous, supportive, kind and loving toward others even when you have trouble – major or minor – extending the same attitudes toward yourself. It’s just that your love isn’t as full or as good as it could be.
We can think of the abilities to give and receive love as directly related: the better you’re able to receive love, the better you’re able to give it.
To use another image, the better you’re able to let love flow into you, the better you’re able to let it flow out of you, like a pitcher filled, poured out, and refilled with water.
Of course, you can fake your abilities, pretending that you hold others in esteem even as you think yourself above them or that you hold yourself in esteem when you struggle with self-loathing.
Sometimes the charade can actually change you for the better and make you a better receptacle and outlet of love; “fake it til you make it” does have some basis in truth.
Most of the time, however, it simply keeps you trapped where you are, in a facade of charity toward others or toward yourself.
And in that facade you remain, performing acts of service to simply add another bullet point to your resume or get another Insta-worthy photo, to hear your praises sung loudly by your friends and grudgingly by your enemies.
Or you perform these same acts in a true desire to build up and connect with others but again and again feel as though you’re falling short, as though you haven’t done enough and simply cannot be enough to merit relationships of mutual trust, support and love.
In either case, you focus on doing. You define yourself by your actions and their consequences: the organizations you join, the service projects in which you participate, the recognition you gain, the awards you receive, the change you create. In doing so, you overlook and neglect being.
I don’t mean that our actions have no importance, nor that we should sit around and think or talk about positive change and service for our world without actually getting up and doing it, nor that we should not affirm acts of righteousness and denounce acts of evil.
However, I do mean that in forming our identities, we must look beyond what we do to who we are.
Let’s start and end with the fact that we’re human. Beyond your race, religion, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, physical abilities, mental state and any other category that appears on all the forms we fill out for anything, you are a human being.
Your identifying characteristics certainly are crucial to your identity and to how you experience the world, but they don’t change the bedrock fact that you are a human person.
And, in my book, that one fact makes you worthy of love and respect – of a life where you have a roof over your head, regular access to healthy and good food, safe water, sanitary living conditions, consistent and affordable health care, healthy relationships and, most of all, a sense that your life has meaning and value.
Now let’s throw Christianity in the mix. Through that worldview, you are human and, even more, a beloved creation and child of God.
Whatever the circumstances of your birth, your life and your death, God loves you infinitely and eternally and wants the best for your, that is, a relationship of freely given and accepted love in this life and in eternity: a communion.
Your thoughts, words, choices and actions influence how much you accept and enter into this invitation to communion, but they never diminish, increase or otherwise change God’s love for you. How can you add to or subtract from infinity?
God is gladdened when we do good and grieved when we do evil; again, what we do is still important. At the same time, God does not waver in, retreat from or advance in loving us.
God extends grace to us in every moment, continually and tenderly telling us that we are worth more than many sparrows. We (and, to me, the sparrows and all creation to boot) are beyond worth; we are priceless.
What’s the point of this rambling, somewhat cloying article on how we are worthy of love and called to love as human beings and as children of God? I suppose it’s simply to state the point, both to you reading this and to myself.
People throughout history have needed to hear and believe but tragically ignored or have been denied this knowledge. We’ve seen and still see the results: the oppression, the hatred, the apathy, the depression, the death.
We need the revelation and the reminder that we need and deserve love. Most of us can and do love as we are now, scared of the consequences of loving all people or simply of loving ourselves.
It’s cliche; it’s sentimental; I know. But it’s true. Your life and the lives of those around you will gain more meaning, peace and joy when you accept yourself as coming from, living in and called to love.
So please, tell yourself those words and speak them to others, today and every day. Believe in them. Act on them.
You are loved and worthy of love.