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Self-Love is Loving Others

Is “self-less” love really self-less? Sometimes you hear people say about another at a funeral: He or she “never thought of themselves.” For me, I question if that’s really true. I can agree that people place others before themselves and can sacrifice something of their own life on behalf of another. Jesus practiced this. But I don’t think that the person is totally self-less. Why? Was Jesus self-less when he spent a good part of his evening in his hills alone in prayer? Jesus was following his greatest need. Only by observing this need was he able to serve others. Jesus wasn’t selfish by pulling away from others to be alone with God. Jesus wasn’t needless or want-less. Needs do not make us weak. We do not curse a car for needing gas or a tune up. We do not belittle a pet when they whine for food. The task is to be clear about the difference between being responsive to our own needs and being “selfish.”

Sir Isaac Newton must have read Luke 6 when he thought of his Third Law of Motion: ‘To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Jesus understood the law of physics as a part of God’s Natural Law of Creation seventeen centuries before Newton was born as he teaches in Luke 6: Give , and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

The result? The more of the Spirit we receive, the more the Spirit will transform us, and the more Spirit will come through us to others. In this way, self-care is an act of loving others. Self-care isn’t selfish at all. We can give away what we haven’t received. So next time when you feel guilty for practicing self-care, thinking that it’s selfish, address the distortion in your mind’s belief. Self-care, being self-love, is a way that we allow the Spirit to renew us.

Sure, children have needs and many times when we’re on empty we still have to attend to those needs. However, unless we model and teach children, that others have needs, they will never learn boundaries and they will believe and develop personalities that believe and act like the universe revolves around them. This is one of the most cruel things we can do to children–to teach them this lie. The universe, the people in it, do not revolve around us. In this way children learn to respect others instead of using them. We will save children from this horrible nightmare when they learn about the needs of others are also important. In this way, children will learn about self-responsibility and their own need to develop their own self-care, distinguishing it from self-centeredness. They will learn how to give and receive instead of being entrapped in our current cultural malaise of the belief of entitlement. Entitlement is an empty pit of self-centeredness.

So what is it that your spirit needs? Stop long enough to listen to your spirit’s needs along with other human needs such as rest, proper nutrition, relaxation, alone time and others. Walk through the delusion of false guilt that others placed in your mind.

So what will be your first application of self-care? I noticed something a few weeks ago lacking in my self care. This may seem a little soppy to some of you. But in this “no touch” world of COVID-19 that runs counter to our human needs for contact, we can develop what is known as touch deprivation. Touch deprivation is when we allow our inner batteries to be drained from a lack of human contact. Our human inner battery is our body. Without enough touch, we begin to deteriorate physically and mentally. Human touch regulates our hormones that feed the various systems in our bodies.

I was noticing after Kathy came up to hug me a week ago and yesterday, how awkward the hug felt. I was surprised as was she. It was almost uncomfortable, and we actually had to get used to it again. So I wonder if I am terminally unique from all you reading this, in that during this season of COVID “no touch” messages being beaten into our brains, if you might be feeling a little touch deprivation yourselves?

If you’re living in a family, you have team mates with whom you can practice. If not, find a friend who has been honoring the distancing, mask and all. Hug each other regularly for 20 seconds a day. Research has shown that this will increase levels of oxytocin—a pleasure hormone that awakens the body and helps us ground to the earth and each other. When we’re not grounded by touch, even just 20 seconds a day, all sorts of mental and physical complications can arise.

Even if we’re not a “touchy-feely” person, try the 20 seconds of hugging a day for a week. If that’s too difficult, start with holding hands with a trusted other 20 seconds a day and work towards the hug. Notice if you feel any difference in your mood and outlook. I bet you’ll notice a difference.

Find ways to let the Spirit lead your life into fulfilling your needs during all these restrictions instead of giving all power to the COVID god and all the excess fear that the media wraps around it. Turn off the TV and hug for 20 seconds.

Let me know how things turn out for you.

And now, I think I’ll go home and hug my wife.

Touch is a holy gift for a human need.

Peace,

Fr. Mark