Love Your Neighbor; Love Yourself

by Natalie Yuhas

 

I’ve stretched myself as thin as it gets this semester among classes that require more time and effort than I’ve ever had to put into school, an internship that sucks up a ton of my time, and the various obligations and responsibilities of extracurricular activities.  While I’m technically still hanging in there, I have been completely failing in relationships that are important to me. I haven’t been the friend I want to be to so many people I care about because I just don’t have the time, and when I do, the days leave me so physically and emotionally exhausted that I’m either in a bad mood or otherwise stressed out. I’m furious at myself for the utter selfishness of it all. 

“I’m so sorry I haven’t replied in such a long time,” I texted my friend back after her message had been sitting unopened in my inbox for an entire week. “I hate myself for how busy I always am.” She told me it was ok and reminded me that it is hard to love others when we aren’t loving ourselves. What immediately came to mind was the quote from Mark- the golden rule that everyone knows, or at least heard before: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than this” (Mark 12:31). Through years and years of Catholic school and Mass, this phrase has become exhausted and cliche to me. Love others. Of course we need to love others. Loving others is infinitely important. But how are we supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves when we don’t love ourselves? How can I tell my friends that they are smart, beautiful, and deserve the best when I turn around and don’t forgive myself for mistakes I’ve made or the faults I have? It’s hypocritical. It’s draining. It’s impossible. 

 

Boston College is filled with driven, beautiful, and successful people. It’s one of the things I love about this school because I’m competitive and it motivates me. But this year more than ever I question whether I even match up anymore. With graduation in the near future, I keep questioning if I’ve chosen a path that is actually worth it or useful. I question whether I am actually worth it or useful.  I set impossible standards for myself that I would never apply to any of my friends and criticize myself for things that I would never criticize my friends for. It’s hard for me to remember that you don’t have to be perfect, or at least good enough (whatever that even means) in order to be loved and respected. That’s the entire point of the Gospel; we don’t love people only when they are “worthy” of it or when it is easy to do so. Mistakes and flaws are innately human and we love people despite of, or sometimes even because of, these quirks and flaws. Love is unconditional.

 

In a way, it feels selfish to preach self-love and acceptance. It also feels trivial in a society that is saturated with so many serious issues, but how many of those issues are stemmed in insecurities and hurt egos? Just look at bullying that pervades our culture from the very youngest ages. How many times do people tear others down and hurt them in order to make themselves feel better or more powerful? It’s an issue we see time and time again that generates from lack of respect for ourselves and for others.

 

I’m far from the friend, daughter, student, and woman I should be and want to be, and as much as it makes me cringe to write this, that’s okay.  Love yourself so that, more importantly, you can love your neighbor. There is no commandment greater than this. 

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