Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Love Yourself As Your Neighbor

December 14, 2007 at 10:41 am (amazing things, proclamations) ()

I’ve just been reading this story (via Pharyngula), in which a man by the name of Alexander Christian York stabbed a 28-year-old man to death. York was arguing with his victim-to-be, Rudi Boa, and Boa’s girlfriend, about evolution, of all things. In drunken rage, York attacked Boa with a kitchen knife.

York was arguing for creationism. He’s been convicted of manslaughter.

Anyway, it seems like a good enough excuse to me to talk about some ideas I’ve been wanting to discuss. Namely, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

A rabbi told me a story about a year ago about a man who went to one of the great Talmudic scholars, a long time ago, and asked the rabbi if he could explain all the teaching of Judaism in the moments that the man could balance on one foot. The rabbi agreed, distilling all of Judaism to one sentence: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

There’s some kind of little twist in the story I don’t remember, but the conclusion is that that idea — the Golden Rule — is kind of like the bite-sized essential teaching. The real one is, of course, love your neighbor has yourself.

Which, when you get to thinking about it, is an enormous idea. More than just treating others as you would have them treat you, you are called to actually love them. You* are called to love them unconditionally, and to do for them what you would do for yourself. Make sure they have the best, fight for their survival at all costs.

There are two sides to that coin. Firstly. To love others as you love yourself is to insist on seeing the inherent humanity in your fellows. It is to acknowledge them absolutely as sentient beings, deserving of tenderness, and ultimately good. It is to see them. To look into them and see something there, see whatever is inside yourself. A waking mind. A loving heart. Etcetera.

We don’t talk about this enough. We don’t do this enough. This idea is absolutely critical and it needs to be front and center in any ideology endeavoring to be revolutionary.

As neglected as the idea is, though, I think the inverse, the second side of the coin, is still more neglected. And that side is just as necessary to justice, to happiness, to love.

If you are to love your neighbor as yourself, loving yourself is a prerequisite. Just as for others, you must insist on seeing your own humanity. You must treat yourself with unconditional love and boundless compassion. You must see yourself as a sentient being, deserving of tenderness, ultimately good. You must treat yourself as others would like to be treated.

Love your neighbor as yourself, and love yourself as you love your neighbor.

* I’m talking to myself here, by the way.

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7 Comments

  1. moonbeammcqueen said,

    Sorry to butt into your conversation with yourself here (heheh), but I think what you’ve said in the last part of this is the hitch. Some people are filled with such self-loathing that when they do love others as themselves, it’s disastrous. Wouldn’t it be great if religious leaders, educators and parents taught that one?

  2. Daisy said,

    Hi moonbeam! Feel free to butt in — that’s why it’s on the internet. : )

    And, yes, that’s what I was trying to get at. That would be great.

    I was also thinking of a lot of the people I grew up with, who did a pretty okay job about treating others, but abused themselves to shit. I think the message only has its full power when it’s both sides: others deserve good treatment, and you deserve the same.

  3. moonbeammcqueen said,

    Exactly! I just read this comment on another blog:

    dovelove said 5 hours ago:

    I think, ultimately, if we truly love (and accept, understand, respect) ourselves, deeply and completely, reflected in how we take care of ourselves, our bodies, our lives, our level of self-care, setting and making sure others respect/honor our boundaries…then, we need no rigid rules :) Because if we genuinely love ourselves, it’s an impossibilty to not love others. Genuinely being the key word here, and again, self-care is a good measuring stick, both body and boundaries :)

    Kind of appropriate, huh?

  4. Daisy said,

    Very appropriate, yeah. What post was it on? Just wondering whether it was the self-care post I was reading today, or another, extremely similar one.

  5. moonbeammcqueen said,

  6. Daisy said,

    Ah, okay. I was reading this one.

    I’d like to talk at some point about the coincidences in the blogosphere, how suddenly everybody is talking about the same thing at once, even people who don’t read one another.

  7. moonbeammcqueen said,

    That would make an excellent post! It’s so true– it happens all the time.

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