I'm supposed to love myself?
A Christian Science perspective on daily life
I'd always had trouble with the Fifth Commandment: "Honour thy father and thy mother." This felt impossible because of my unhappy childhood.
When I first learned through my study of Christian Science that God, divine Love, was both my Father and Mother, I happily thought that let me off the hook.
It seemed a relief basically to ignore my human parents except for necessary visits, but after a number of years I realized that the family dysfunction had far-reaching effects. The disappointment, fear, and resentment I felt came out in other relationships, most noticeably toward myself.
Wanting to express more love in obedience to the Golden Rule, I grew in patience, unselfishness, and tolerance. But still I was not free from anxiety, self-doubt, and short temper. I always felt I didn't measure up and realized that I was often down on myself for being down on myself.
When the full meaning of Jesus' command to "love thy neighbor as thyself" began to dawn on me, it was clear that I could no longer love my neighbor instead of myself. The grace expressed in his Beatitudes, such as "Blessed are the merciful," allowed me to begin to be merciful toward myself.
A significant turning point came when I realized that as God's image and likeness, as described in the first chapter of Genesis, I reflected God's father-motherhood. Asking myself how God saw me, I realized that I could appreciate in some measure that I must be "very good," and ready, willing, able, and worthy to accept that fact.
With the help of the 23rd Psalm (as explained by Mary Baker Eddy), and the 91st Psalm, I began to put some basic mothering and fathering qualities into practice toward myself. I began to speak to myself more gently, patiently, comfortingly, and lovingly.
I took a firm stand in defending my mental home. Whenever judging or critical thoughts would come, sounding very much like my own voice, I rejected them as not my own thoughts since they did not come from my loving Father-Mother.
I acknowledged that in my true, spiritual nature, I could understand that Love had been loving me all along, despite what felt like an absence of love. I acknowledged that my Father-Mother God had made me able to accept all the good that was graciously being given to me now.
As Mary Baker Eddy put it, "This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object..." ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 304). God needed me, as God needs each of us, as His-Her loved child.
It became more natural to let go of negative traits and feel a new sense of worth, just as when I toss old clothes out of my closet, no matter how familiar or comfortable, to make room for new ones. I sometimes even surprise myself by responding with compassion in situations that before would have triggered my temper. Feeling loved, loving, happy, and safe has become natural to me.
This transformation of my thought has not come quickly, and at times not easily. It has required faith, persistence, and diligence in replacing old ways of identifying myself with the spiritual understanding of my true nature as God's loved child. Treating myself with patience and kindness has been a new and happy experience.
This has brought me much joy and peace of mind and greater freedom from fear and resentment, so that I can now feel sincere appreciation and care for myself and my parents. It has enabled me to help more effectively those who need my love and prayers.
To "love thy neighbor as thyself" is to see that we all are one universal family, continuously valued and cared for by our loving Father-Mother God.