Love Thy Neighbor, Love Thy Self

By Tracee Sioux

I was on the john reading this little devotional. It was a scripture pretty much everyone has memorized, even if they aren’t Christian.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self. Gal. 5:11

And I thought, How many people hate themselves? Women and girls especially. Cutting on themselves, saying “I hate myself’ over and over, not allowing themselves to eat, or any number of other destructive behaviors.

The devotional was saying it’s hard to love other people when they are so flawed. Boo Hoo. I think it’s harder to love yourself if you perceive so many flaws and won’t cut yourself any slack.

I had a similar epiphany moment when I heard something else I’ve heard a million times.

You teach people how to treat you.

I had always thought that meant that if you allow people to keep crossing your boundaries they will keep doing it until you stop accepting that behavior. And it totally does mean that.

But, one day I heard someone use it in a different context. How can you expect anyone on earth to treat you better than you treat yourself?

Of course, she was talking about the way women will sacrifice virtually everything and never even take care of their own physical bodies or mental health. Then women wonder why everyone takes advantage of us and treat us like crap. Well, obviously it’s because we treat ourselves with a lack of respect.

I’m a word lover. I love a paradigm shift from a phrase or scripture I’ve heard a million times and an epiphany about how I’m living my life.

I’ve started treating myself in a kinder way by taking yoga, exercising, eating better, stopping smoking. I couldn’t really say I “love myself” as much as “I love my neighbor” if I’m eating like crap, smoking and running my body into the ground and not taking care of my mental and emotional health. I’m treating my neighbor way better than that, because obviously I’m not actively trying to kill my neighbor with neglect and bad habits.

I’ve also come to a place where I’m not accepting behavior from friends and family that I used to accept. I’m going to be kind enough to myself to say, “no, you may no longer treat me that way,” when someone disregards my boundaries or takes advantage of me or takes my generosity for granted.

I’m not longer going to treat my neighbor better than I treat me. Nor am I going to allow my neighbor to treat me as badly as she treats herself. Because that’s not what the verse requires of me.

I hope you’ll do the same for yourself and model that for your daughter. Already I’ve heard the words I hate myself come out of my 5-year-old’s mouth when she was upset, frustrated or disappointed that she wasn’t perfect the first time she tried something. She can only be getting that from me, because I am the person she emulates. I don’t have to verbalize it for her to know it’s true.

My task is to make it untrue and make sure she knows it’s untrue.

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