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Center for Action and Contemplation
Loving Neighbor, Loving Self
Loving Neighbor, Loving Self

One Source of Love 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Yet before you can love your neighbor—your brother or sister—as yourself, you must first love yourself. And to first love yourself, you must know that God loves you now and loves you always.
—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream 

Richard Rohr connects our ability to love others with our ability to receive God’s love. 

Authentic love is of one piece. How we love anything is how we love everything. Jesus commands us to “Love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” and he connects the two great commandments of love of God and of neighbor, saying they are “like” one another (Matthew 22:39). So often, we think this means to love our neighbor with the same amount of love—as much as we love ourselves—when it really means that it is the same Source and the same Love that allows us to love ourselves, others, and God at the same time! That is unfortunately not the way most people understand love, compassion, and forgiveness—yet it is the only way they ever work.  

We cannot sincerely love another or forgive offenses inside of dualistic consciousness. Many pastors and priests have done the people of God a great disservice by preaching the gospel to them but not giving them the tools to live it out. As Jesus put it, “Cut off from the vine, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The “vine and the branches” offer one of the greatest Christian mystical images of the non-duality between God and the soul. In and with God, I can love everything and everyone—even my enemies. Alone and by myself, my willpower and intellect will seldom be able to love in difficult situations over time. Many folks try to love by willpower, with themselves as the only source. They try to obey the second commandment without the first. It never works long term. 

Finally, of course, there’s a straight line between love and suffering. If we love anyone or anything deeply and greatly, it’s fairly certain we’ll soon suffer because we have offered control to another, and the cost of self-giving will soon show itself. Undoubtedly, this is why we are told to be faithful in our loves, because such long-term loyalty and truly conscious love will always lead us to the necessary pruning (John 15:2) of the narcissistic self. 

Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds. Then a Larger Source opens up within us and we “think” and feel quite differently through “knowing the Love, which is beyond all knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). Thus, Jesus would naturally say something like, “This is my commandment: you must love one another!” (John 13:34). Authentic love (which is always more than an emotion) initially opens the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps that door open for mind, body, and will to enter. I suspect for most of us that is the work of a lifetime. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 206–207. 

Image credit and inspiration: Cynthia Magana, untitled (detail), 2016, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. In order to care for each other, we must also take care of ourselves. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’m grateful for the spiritual frame Dr. Barbara Holmes brings to CAC’s Daily Meditations. It feels so good for me. I want to live by her way of understanding the world and less by what the “accepted culture” thinks is correct. At 79, it’s about time! I believe that less is more, and that it’s valuable to be a good neighbor and share resources. I continue to seek opportunities to be of service in my own town and community.
—Irene C. 

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