Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

There are a number of things on my mind today, one of the chief things being the terms selfish and self-centered. A number of things have contributed to my thoughts on the matter and being the analytic person I am I have decided to write them out to try to bring about some sort of cohesion and peace of mind.all about me

First off, I looked up the definition of both terms. The online definition of selfish is:

1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. 2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself

That is pretty self-explanatory. When someone is described as selfish they generally don’t care about the well-being or happiness of anyone, but themselves. The online definition of self-centered was deemed synonymous with selfish, but also holds more than that one meaning:

1. concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.; engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical. 2. independent, self-sufficient. 3. centered in oneself or itself. 4. fixed; unchanging.

I have been referred to as selfish and self-centered at different times in my life by different people. This isn’t surprising or outrageous. Most people have been called one or the other if not both in their lives and I believe it’s pretty much true. I have had my moments as everyone does, why try to deny the fact. The problem isn’t in having those moments, but in whether or not you live in or move past those moments. That is what makes the difference in a person being selfish or self-centered as an action, or being selfish or self-centered as a state of being (character).

“Here I am going to say something which may come as a bit of a shock. God doesn’t necessarily want us to be happy. He wants us to be lovable. Worthy of love. Able to be loved by Him. We don’t start off being all that lovable, if we’re honest. What makes people hard to love? Isn’t it what is commonly called selfishness? Selfish people are hard to love because so little love comes out of them.”
― William NicholsonShadowlands

My list of faults and mistakes are lengthy, but one of my biggest strengths is the compassion and love I have for living things. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number of bad experiences with people, I still love them. I love people who have lied to me, beaten me, used me, and attempted to break me. I love people who have met me at every turn with vile words and accusations. God has given me a deep desire to show Him to all living creatures and to be a living example of love. I stumble, I fall, but I always strive towards that goal.

Some people think that is a cop-out. They say I’m using it to avoid taking responsibility, but I’m not. Having pure intentions doesn’t excuse my mistakes or my faults. I still have to apologize and take responsibility for myself and my actions. I still have to nurture and rebuild relationships with people I have unintentionally wounded, mentally, physically, or spiritually. I still have to monitor my words and my actions around people who don’t trust me (and may not have a reason to yet). love them anyway

Unfortunately, sometimes people you love and care about deeply take one of your actions and brand it as a characteristic. It is, in my opinion, one of the most hurtful and unnecessary things a person can do, but it happens. Speaking from experience I will suffice to say that once a person has characterized you as such it doesn’t matter how you interact with them or how much effort you put into making their life more beautiful, they will always look down their nose at you and say you are selfish or self-centered. Few wounds have left such a deep mark.

Nonetheless, life goes on. Love thy neighbor as thyself is the command Christ gave us. It doesn’t have an ‘unless’ clause or an ‘until’ clause. It states love thy neighbor as thyself. That’s a period afterwards.

So I continue my life. I may still have my selfish or self-centered moments, but I will not make it a characteristic. Instead I  will continue giving of myself , loving those who may or may not love me, and improving myself in whatever mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical capacity I can. self centered radius

I Celebrate My Friend, Maya Angelou

Tonight I finished Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou. For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a rather moving collection of essays and poems about Maya’s life. The last few chapters were a bit random and didn’t seem to fit with the feel of the rest of the book, but it was worth the read.

The best part of the book though was the revelation that Maya Angelou sounds just like one of my friends, Winter S. She happens to be a 6′ tall African-American young woman with a fiery passion for life and she has humor and wit that could rival Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act (which by the way is a great movie).

Winter is a woman who will meet you at 7am, after coming off a long third shift, and spend an extra 15 minutes sharing her newest book and/or comical experience to start your day with a smile. She is a strong-willed, independent woman and, not unlike Maya Angelou, she inspires women around her. She encourages them to look at the positive side of any situation, she influences and challenges women around her to aspire to be better to themselves and others.

ImageToday’s society celebrates people with money and power. The media spends all of their time talking and writing about celebrities like Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, and Reese Witherspoon. The media cares about what shoes these people are wearing, where they go shopping, and how much their cars and houses cost.

They celebrate Maya Angelou for her beautiful poetry and insightful memoirs. That’s great, but what about women like Winter? Winter, who makes a difference in other people’s lives not by writing about her own, but simply by living as an example. What about women like Winter who make my life richer and more complete.

Today I celebrate those women. I celebrate Winter, my friend. She shows joy and love to everyone she meets. She is proud of her independence, proud of her character, and so am I. So today I celebrate her friendship and her beauty, inside and out. I celebrate the woman she is and the woman she is becoming every day.

Reputation vs. Relationships

It seems that every day someone is writing an article or sharing a quote about honor and ethics and morals. I guess everyone wants to show just how decent and virtuous they are. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually think about whether their actions align with said written article or quote when they share it. They are more interested in hearing people say wonderful things about it, re-Tweeting it on Twitter, or liking it on Facebook. They want to pat themselves on the back and say “good job, you shared it with the rest of the population and now they think better of you for it.”

welldone

It’s sad really that our society has come to the point where people care more about their reputations than their actual relationships. If they get enough likes on Facebook, enough followers on Twitters, then maybe they have some worth. Maybe then they don’t feel so bad about the way they looked at the strangers in the supermarket, or how they whispered and gossiped with their friends in class about a new student.

If people cared more about genuinely talking to people, re-building broken trust with people they know and forming trust and comradeship with new people, and less about whether or not the doe-eyed girl down the street still thought he was perfect or whether the man she met at a party thought she was hot, the world would be a better place.

Don’t Hide From Me

You asked me to love you with all that I could. I reached within myself and did just that- I loved you with my heart, my soul; with every fiber of my body, every part of my being. I poured myself out to you with depth even I didn’t know I was capable of. You were mine and I was yours.

In return, I asked only that you cradle my heart and keep it safe. Don’t play with it. Don’t break it.

You did worse. You hid it and pretended it wasn’t there. You resisted me. You said you didn’t ask for so much. You punished me with your silence and your ignorance.

You are afraid. You are afraid I am asking too much of you, that I am demanding more than you are capable of by loving you so fully.

You withdraw.  I am not the enemy.