Do you know what I find interesting?
The entire Bible is full of instruction and exhortation on how I am supposed to treat others. According to scripture I am to be kind, generous, and patient, to others. I am supposed to forgive others. I am supposed to defer to others. I am supposed to put the needs of others above my own. In short the Bible places an almost one-sided emphasis on how I should treat others. The only scripture that even implies that I should be loving myself is not even an instruction but merely an acknowledgement that most normal humans already love themselves, and therefore the instruction is that I should love others in the same way I already love myself.
I find this interesting because we live in culture that is almost hopelessly focused on self. We are told to love ourselves, look out for ourselves, forgive ourselves. We are taught to recognize what our individual needs are. How do I feel love. How do I feel affirmation. How do I need to be communicated with. We take endless surveys and quizzes to discover how we want to be treated or what our greatest needs are. In short, we have become acutely aware of how others need to treat us.
I bring this up because I am reviewing some some marriage material and I am revisiting Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages.
Most of us, particularly in Christian circles are familiar with the book, and if we have read it, we are quite aware of what our love language is. But remember, the primary emphasis of the book was not to figure your love language, but to become aware of your spouses’ love language. It was not written so you would know how you like to to be loved, but so you would know how to show love to someone else.
I am not opposed to self-awareness in principle. I suppose it is useful and maybe even healthy for us to know ourselves better, and to be more kind and loving to ourselves. (Those who know me know that I had to write that with a wry smile on my face). I just feel that we have gotten a little upside down in all of this. We are acutely aware of how we would like to be treated, but the challenge from scripture is to become more aware of how we should treat others.
Of course I am not talking about being a doormat, or suffering abuse, or living in a way that is destructive or damaging to your mental health... but I am suggesting that in otherwise normal adults, all this self-awareness might be creating a little bit of selfishness.
The great irony is that while we are all waiting for someone else to feed us we are all going to starve... so why don’t we all take note from scripture and begin meeting the needs of each other. Instead of waiting for someone to do unto me as I would like it done, maybe, just maybe, I should do unto others as I would like it done unto me.
If you are feeling love-starved, or lonely or fearful or anxious, there is a good chance that those around you are feeling the same things you are. Take the initiative. I have found that love and kindness and generosity have a kind of boomerang effect. Whenever you throw it around it nearly always comes back to you.