I once read a story that greatly impacted me.
A man (I will call him Sam) was visiting his friend (I will call him Michael). They were walking down the streets of London to get breakfast when they passed a man selling newspapers. Michael gave the newsman a warm greeting, but the man just scowled back at him.
"Surly fellow," said Sam.
"Oh, he's like that every morning," replied Michael.
"Then why do you keep giving him a warm greeting?" asked Sam.
"Why should I let him determine who I want to be?" replied Michael.
Michael was strong enough to love.
What this means is that Michael was strong enough within himself to not be a reactive person. He was strong enough to not take the newsman's behavior personally. He was not afraid of rejection.
In order to not be reactive, not take the newsman's behavior personally, and not be fearful of rejection, Michael had to have reached a place in his own inner healing and growth where he loved and valued himself.
Becoming strong enough to love means that you know who you are in your soul essence, and you know, love and value your true self. It means that you do not define yourself by your ego, but by your Being. When you are able to know who you are in your soul essence and you love and value yourself, then you are able to see, love and value others.
We cannot see the beauty in others when we are rejecting ourselves. When we allow others to define our worth, then of course we take it personally when someone rejects us -- because we have already rejected ourselves. We then become reactive to others' unloving behavior, trying to control them or avoid our own pain by getting angry, blaming, complying, resisting or withdrawing. Of course, none of this is loving, but we cannot be loving -- as Michael was -- when we are judging and rejecting ourselves rather than loving and valuing ourselves.
How to Become Strong Enough to Love
Try this little exercise:
Close your eyes and imagine that you can see yourself as an infant or a very small child. Imagine you can see this child through the eyes of a very loving presence. If you had someone in your life who really loved you, then imagine them. If not, then imagine a wise, powerful and loving being who deeply loves you.
How would this loving presence describe you as this child -- before you were ever hurt, before you ever became afraid? You might even have to go back to being in the womb, since for some babies, pain started very early.
Were you loving, feisty, curious, compassionate, kind, rambunctious? Were you quiet or loud, introverted or extroverted? Write down the adjectives that come to mind as you look at yourself through the eyes of the loving presence.
This is your essence -- your soul self. Is there anything about this child that isn't deserving of love? Even if you were born with physical problems, does this mean you weren't worthy of loving? Is it possible for any baby to not be deserving of love?
If you were to start taking loving care of yourself the way you would take care of a beloved child, you would eventually become strong enough to love others. It has to start with loving yourself, because if you are not loving yourself, then you will be always trying to get love from others, rather than sharing your love with others.
Why not begin today learning to be become strong enough to love others, by learning to love yourself?
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships." The next course starts February 12, 2014.
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