During this Year of Mercy, I’ve been pierced by this question: how merciful am I to myself? The question echoes within me because I realize how unmerciful I can be to myself sometimes. And the degree of mercy I extend to myself, whether I know it or not, invariably affects the mercy I give to others. That is a significant truth, yet how often I overlook that!
Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) It’s easy to take that verse at face value and think, “Just love your neighbor.” But the modifying phrase, “as yourself,” tells us we need to love ourselves in order to fully love our neighbor. We need to be merciful to ourselves if we are to be merciful to others.
Our self-love seeps into our actions and affects our relationships in subtle and not so subtle ways. If I dislike and fail to embrace my quieter and more reflective nature, then it will be hard for me to fully embrace the same in another. How can I love another if I choose to hate that which is in me? And if I make a mistake and don’t let it go, then my bitterness can affect what I do for others. If I don’t practice even little acts of mercy towards myself, what will make me give such mercy towards another?
God wants us to be kind to ourselves. He wants us to overcome those self-critical thoughts and stop holding grudges against ourselves. He yearns for us to forgive ourselves and to believe in the gifts he has given us.
Whenever we struggle to love ourselves, God is always there to receive us in our wounds. He is the Father who wants us to see the goodness within ourselves and embrace it. 1 John 4:10-11, says “We love because he first loved us.” This is where the path of mercy and service begins! For us to love ourselves ever more fully so that we can love others ever more fully, we have to continually encounter Christ and abide in his intimate love. Then our hearts will be on fire because He reveals to us who we are and shows us how to love: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (Jn 15:9). Christ enlivens us with self-acceptance and self-worth so we can go out and give to others the mercy and love by which we have been loved.
In this Year of Mercy, let us strive to be merciful to ourselves so that we can be merciful to all, asking Jesus: “Lord, help me to love myself as much as you love me.”
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