Before Eckhart Tolle talked about the power of now; before Brene’ Brown studied vulnerability; even before random acts of kindness became a thing, there was “Dr. Love” – Leo Buscaglia. He was a ground-breaking researcher and actually taught classes on love. If you’re interested in reading his work, you can find at least one of his 14 books in a garage sale or maybe all of them at the library. Or ask your parents. (Unless they’re the ones who sold them in a garage sale.)
I remember being touched by his passion, his tenderness, his uninhibited enthusiasm for caring. He was an advocate for the power of love. No act of love was too small for him.
When you haven’t been properly or appropriately loved, self-affection or the belief that anyone else can love you is virtually impossible. To this, Buscaglia said, “Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”
It’s too easy for some of us to put the needs of others before our own. But if we do, then loving ourselves is mandatory! We must love ourselves in order to love others. Why else would one of Christ’s two commandments be to love your neighbors as you love yourself?
For as long as I can remember, whenever I heard that, I thought, ‘My neighbors are in for a whole lot of nothin’ if that’s the case’ because I didn’t love myself. Not at all. I hoped others would love me, but I certainly didn’t expect it. I harbored the quiet belief that if anyone were ever to find out what I was really like, they wouldn’t like me at all. Essentially, I felt unlovable.
And there, in the middle of my growing up in self-deprecation, was Leo Buscaglia, a boisterous, loving bear of an Italian who was telling the world how important love was. I could read about it, but it may just as well have been well-written fiction to me. It was a lovely but ridiculous idea to a young woman who saw conditional tolerance at home and earned appreciation at school, but not love.
But Christ has it right, and so did Buscaglia. We can only offer what we have. I spent many of my 50-plus years being judged, and so I am now judgmental (And, yes, I’m working on it. I’m especially judgmental of people who are judgmental! I know, right?). I have learned to be more loving to myself, which has allowed me to be more accepting of love from others. The more love I can accept for myself, the more love I can offer to others. Eventually, I hope that loving others as I love myself will be a really good thing for other people! For now, I do the best I can. If I want to love as Christ loves, though, I have to allow myself to feel loved.
Here’s the cool part: If we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and we can’t love ourselves without accepting love, where does the first act of love come from?
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
This is great news for anyone who has grown up feeling unloved and unlovable! (And I believe there is a difference between the two.) If no one showed you love growing up, you can bet that God loves you! He always has and he always will. If you’re a Child of God, nothing you do can make him love you more; nothing you do can make him love you less.
First Romans 8:38-39 confirms this:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You are so loved! Never forget that and never doubt it.