There I was, sitting in Starbucks, feeling really shitty about myself. I was, admittedly, having a wonderful little pity party. Then a friend sent me a message. They were going through something really hard, something I’ve been through before but it’s been a while. Now, I was hurting for my friend. And I felt so stupid for my self-indulgent little pity party. I just wanted to find a way to help my friend. But there really wasn’t much I could do except offer support and pray.
I wrote the word PERSPECTIVE in bold letters in my journal and underlined it.
Still sitting at Starbucks, I decided to spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation. I grabbed my coffee cup and wrapped my hands around it, holding it sort of chest level and stared off into the distance at a knot in the woodwork. I asked God to help my friend and asked him to speak to me. I breathed in. I breathed out. Then I glanced down at my coffee lid.
I saw a triangle.
This was not a heaven sent triangle. It was just your ordinary, run of the mill, recycling triangle that you see on all recyclable plastic.
But immediately upon seeing the triangle, a spark popped in my brain and I thought, “Everything is a triangle.” Obviously, everything is not a triangle, but what I really meant was, “everything has a cycle and needs balance”.
Then I remembered the time Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He said to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And the second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I pictured a triangle formed by loving God, loving others, and loving myself.
Every time I’ve ever read those verses I’ve totally seen the “loving God” part and “loving others” part, but somehow I have missed the “loving yourself” part. But it’s right there!
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
News flash! You can’t “love your neighbor as yourself” if YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF!
The idea of loving myself has been evolving for me. To be honest, I have taught against it in the past. (This is why James said let not many be teachers. Because he knew we’d eff it up.) I always believed it was ok to have healthy self-esteem but I thought the idea of putting yourself first was just an excuse to act like a b*tch to people. And maybe that’s the case with some people. But as I’ve come to see, putting yourself first can also be extremely healthy and life giving. As I’ve been on this journey of self-discovery/uncovery/recovery, I’ve been seeing the need to stop doing things that hurt me even if those things help other people.
Sometimes, we do need to put others first, I won’t deny that. There are times when we have the strength, ability, resources, gumption, whatever, that others don’t have and as Amanda Palmer said “if you can, you must”. IF I have it to give, it’s ok to give. And I should give. IF.
But there are certainly times when I do not have the strength, ability, resources, gumption, whatever, and were I to give to my neighbor, not only would I be without, I would have a negative balance. And now I would need someone to come and give to me.
So there are absolutely times when I must be at the top of the triangle.
And even if what I am doing is so very beneficial to others, if I’m dipping into a dry well, I NEED to stop.
These last two years, I have started a class for middle schoolers at church that I then stepped away from. (But only after there were other teachers to take my place. I’m not a monster.) I have volunteered to clean at church and stepped away from that. And my husband and I have led a life group at church that we… can you guess? Stepped away from. I carry a huge amount of guilt about all of these. In all my years, I have not been a person who just stops helping. Usually, I am the person who adds more volunteer work to their schedule.
But I have been dipping from a well that is dry for far too long. And I’m so lucky to belong to the kind of church now that really doesn’t want people to do that. Most of the churches I’ve belonged to have been the kind that believe you “give until it hurts and then give some more”. But the church I belong to now believes in healing and wholeness for everyone. Even if that means stepping away from things for a season.
Back to Starbucks. I finished meditating and put my mystical coffee cup down. I picked up my journal and drew a triangle, writing “self, God, others” in the three corners. I wrote the word BALANCE boldly and underlined it. And I realized that to have balance in my life I must love God, others and myself equally. I must give time and place to each equally, never letting one become unbalanced and unhealthy.
It’s funny how concepts you’ve been thinking about for years (like not dipping from a dry well or having balance in your life), concepts you thought you understood and had some kind of mastery over, how suddenly they take on a completely new meaning and understanding for you in the blink of an eye. It’s funny how, even when you thought you knew what loving yourself meant, you find out, you didn’t completely and you have to keep learning.
Oh well. I’m gonna keep working on myself and my triangle and I guess you, dear readers, get to have a front row seat. Lucky you.
Go out and have a balanced triangle for yourself. Whatever that looks like for you.