“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
We all agree that love is a wonderful thing. If we are lucky we grow up surrounded by a loving family, and take love for granted. When we become adolescents it becomes a little complicated; there is all that falling in love, and unrequited love, and loving from a distance and feelings that probably have nothing at all to do with love and everything to do with hormones and pheromones! But it makes life very interesting.
If we grew up in a Christian environment we were assured that God and Jesus love us, and that we must love our neighbors as ourselves. And after a while we throw the word love around very casually, and apply it to all manner of things both material and natural, without really thinking of the meaning of the word. I have been thinking about love this week, and a Christmas carol has been singing in the back of my mind.
“Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign”
And of course it is easy to feel loving at Christmas time. After all, December is the best month of the year! And despite the stress of the season, and the crazy way we have decided to show our love by emptying out our bank account to buy unneeded gifts for ungrateful recipients, the Christmas cheer is everywhere. Even if you are not religious, or you do not follow the Christian faith, the festivities bring their own glow, a special feeling to a special time of year. For those who live in colder climes, the crispness of the air, the snow, the beautifully lit houses, all give a brightness to the long nights of winter.
But if we are honest most of us are not very good at loving unconditionally when it comes to our fellow man. In particular, those who are closest to us. We love our kids, but…. We love our spouses, but…. And when it comes to bad drivers, or rude cashiers, or those annoying people we come across every day, it is even harder to think about loving them.
But if we are to make this world a better place it has to begin with us loving each other. Only then can we make decisions that are healthy for all of the world, not just those that are consuming and destroying the most. Only then can we make decisions that look out for the most vulnerable in our world, not just our immediate family.
And what does it mean to love unconditionally? It requires that we accept people as they are, again, a challenge to most of us. It means accepting that it is not our job to change people, or require that they change for us. It means accepting that, even in their imperfections, they are who they are, and they are responsible for their own growth and development.
Returning to the quote of Kubler-Ross, a lady who did a lot of thinking about life and living, and death and dying; she reminded us that we have to love ourselves unconditionally also. And again, that is a difficult concept to practice. Even just learning to love yourself (with conditions) may be challenging for those taught to always put others first. We sometimes have to relearn the lessons that it is not only OK to love yourself, it is necessary, if you are going to be able to love and take care of others. To take the next step in loving yourself unconditionally, with no fine print, no special ifs, no imagined changes in appearance, age, abilities, can you imagine that?
Yesterday I spent a few moments recalling my father. It was the anniversary of the day he left this earth. One of his favorite Bible passages was in I Corinthians which begins “I may speak in tongues of men or angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal” The passage goes on to tell you what love is and what it is not, and I love the original KJV that says “it is not puffed up”, a reminder that although you can love yourself, you don’t have to think you are the best thing since sliced bread!
So on this wonderful December morning, I recommend that you take a moment to begin by loving yourself. Close your eyes, take a slow cleansing breath, and think of yourself with love and acceptance for all you are and all you are yet to be. And let a breath of unconditional love flow out towards your fellow man, even that annoying one in the corner. For only love can drive out hate (Martin Luther King Jr.).
Have a wonderful Friday, family! May your Christmas season be full of love and light. And if you are in the South Florida area, please join the CC family as we celebrate once more and raise some funds for our struggling students in the hills of Clarendon, Jamaica, where Christmas used to be so special (Christmas breeze, Christmas morning service, candle-lit Christmas caroling around the town….). Poinsettias red…. I could go on and on…