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Freeing Us from Self-hatred

Fr. Daniel L. Lowery, CSsR

On many occasions, as we have seen, Jesus firmly repeated the twofold commandment of the Old Testament concerning love of God and love of neighbor…. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well” (Matthew 22:36–40).

How many commandments do we have in this saying of Jesus? This may seem like a strange question, since Jesus himself said that there are two commandments. Yet it is possible to say that there are actually three commandments. One of them is a “hidden” commandment, in the sense that Jesus did not spell it out. Yet he seemed to assume that it will be observed. It is almost as if he took it for granted. What I am referring to is the “as yourself” in Jesus’ statement “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What does this “as yourself” mean? In my opinion, it means that the norm or measure for loving our neighbor is taken from the way in which we love ourselves. Or, to put it negatively: If we do not love ourselves, we will not be able to love our neighbor, and so we will not be able to fulfill the second commandment of Jesus.

From the viewpoint of faith, there are certain starting points that can help us. It seems most important for us to make our own the most basic faith conviction of all: namely, that God loves me, has always loved me, and will always love me! God’s love for us is free and unconditional. If we can believe that, we will begin to love ourselves, not for false reasons but for the best of all reasons!

The Gospels show Jesus freeing countless people from demons of every type and description. The demon of self-hatred is one that prowls our world today. In my mind’s eye, I see Jesus moving among us by his power and grace and freeing us from the demons that keep us from loving ourselves and that keep us, therefore, from loving others.

From Following Christ: How to Live a Moral Life by Daniel L. Lowery, CSsR, Liguori Publications (438501).

Published inReflections