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Tough Self-Love

Tough Self-Love

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It would be better to enter Life crippled than to have hands and go into Gehenna, where the fire never goes out. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better to enter Life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It would be better to enter the kindom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be drawn into Gehenna, where ‘the worm never dies and the fire never goes out.” ~ Mark 9:43-38

Well, if you ever questioned whether Jesus or the Bible was to be taken literally, this passage should cure you. Obviously Jesus was not talking about literally cutting off your hand or foot, or plucking out your eye, if they cause you to “sin.” Otherwise our world would be full of blind, handless, footless people.

So, it’s a metaphor. At the heart of the metaphor, I believe Jesus is asking for us to be conscious of our actions ane to choose the actions that are best for us and best for others.

(For the full video version, click here.)

As human beings ruled primarily by ego and emotions and physical drives, we are often doing things that take us away from the spiritual path and our highest selves. We must learn to be aware of what we’re doing and learn to stop behavior that is not in our best good, or the best good of others. In some cases we may need to remove the temptation altogether. If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves in a hell that we’ve created, and distanced from our relationship with God.

To me, this sounds like not only a call for awareness and change, but a call to tough self-love.

We’ve all heard about tough love. It means that when we truly love and care about another person, we are deeply honest with them about things that may be difficult to say or here, we refuse to ignore or enable negative behavior, we hold them accountable and responsible for their actions and we may even set boundaries or constraints for their well-being.

So, tough SELF-love is treating ourselves the same way.

Remember Jesus’ two commandments? Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

TOUGH self-love says I care enough about myself and my spiritual, emotional, physical well-being to be honest with myself – not to the point of beating myself up – to see where my life is out of whack with what is best for me and to work on fixing it. Most likely we already know where we're "off," we just don’t want to admit it, or don’t want to do anything about it.

I invite you to ponder the following questions as a way to begin thinking about this.

What brings out the best in you and feels expansive for your soul? What increases your joy, your feeling of connectedness with others, your love of life and others? What contributes to the health and wholeness of your mind, body and spirit?

What brings out the worst in you? What triggers your anger, shame, fear, self-loathing, low self-esteem? What feels contractive, and like the world is closing in, what sucks the life out of you? What doesn't contribute to the health and wholeness of your mind, body and spirit?

Ok… so then do what brings out the best in you, and don’t do what brings out the worst in you! Seriously, I realize it isn’t that simple, but that is the general gist of things. This is not always as black and white as our scripture passage makes it sound. It’s not always possible to simply cut things/people out of our lives, but then we need to work on finding ways to make things better, or setting boundaries to limit our time with that situation or person.

On line I found a great list of ways to practice Tough Self-Love. These are a few of the things that they listed:

Work on your bad habits – we all have them and we know what they are, we need to challenge ourselves to work on changing them. I know I shouldn’t drink soda, but I know enough to limit my consumption to one diet Coke per day!

Stop comparing yourself – I’m never going to be as cute as Ellen DeGeneres, or as kind and benevolent as Mother Theresa, or sing as well as Tony. I can only work on being the best me that I can be.

Don’t live in your victimhood - there’s a thin line between honoring your story and the experiences that have created you – and letting it be all that you are. I know that "poor me" energy can catch us up, but it isn't healthy to get caught there.

Go to therapy – sometimes we need an impartial (trained) person to help us sort things out, deal with our family, make big decisions, heal from our past, work on our self-esteem, etc. It's not a weakness to ask for help. I've done my own time in the therapist's chair and it helps!

Get rid of things we no longer need – clearing stuff out of our lives is also cleansing for our souls.

Make a doctor’s appointment – we need to take care of our physical selves even if it is unpleasant. I had been putting off a physical, standard tests for a while and I finally bit the bullet and got them all done this summer. If something is wrong, putting it off does not make it better.

Create boundaries – Stop being around, or at least limit your time around, toxic people, people who suck the life out of you. And stick up for yourself. Or maybe it is the late-night burritos that are causing your downfall, if so, stop buying them!

Do the hard stuff – take a look at your life and see what you don’t like and start trying to fix it.

Social media - Unfollow, unlike, unjoin people/pages/groups that aren’t having a positive effect on your life. 

Pep-talks – One of my old student pastors and I created a mantra to get us through some of life’s challenges. We’d say to each other, and to ourselves, “You are a woman of power and authority.” We need to practice believing in ourselves and cheering ourselves on. “I’ve got this!” “I can do this!

The spiritual path calls for tough self-love. We need to work on doing what supports our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and stop setting up circumstances that don't.

Love & Light!