Love Thy Neighbor
The first thing that came to mind when I thought of this verse was the rest of it which says, "...as thyself." "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself". Ha! Loving our neighbors as ourselves might not always be a good thing! If we want to do something nice for people, we may want to love our neighbors more than we love ourselves some days - or better - right? We might want to look at how we love ourselves first. It just might need an upgrade. Do that, and then we've got something better to share with our neighbors.
And here's the second thing: What do we mean by "neighbor" anyway? Is it just the person or group of people literally next door? Is it about making an effort to know and love the people who live to the left, to the right, above and below, in front of or behind us? If we're talking simple geography or neighborhood design, then no, not really. But if we're speaking in metaphors, then, yes, we're on to something.
What if a neighbor is anyone near us in the course of our lives? Think of these terms again, this time as metaphors: To the left and to the right of us. Could that be in politics? Above and below us. Could that be in economics? In front of and behind us. Could that be in age, progress, or achievements? And a host of other variations on how we show up in life! Love is flexible enough to love everyone. Are we?
What comes up when we consider loving our neighbors as our best self-love? Not only the realization that our self-love could use an upgrade, but we can also get into comparing when we look at our neighbors, not exactly like us. If we're coming from that primitive, unconscious place we all have we can interpret these differences as things which we need to avoid or change. It takes self-awareness and choice to rise above our primitive responses, have evolved ones instead, and to embrace and celebrate our variations. Our willingness to see our neighbors through the lens of love reveals untold treasures and wonderful possibilities we get to have, rather than miss.
What if we were to experiment with the notion and prove it for ourselves?
First, we'd go back to the beginning. We'd ask ourselves, "Before I begin deliberately loving my neighbor as myself, how am I doing with self-love?" Ask and answer that question and do a tune-up on self-love.
Second, we'd ask ourselves, "Before I begin deliberately loving my neighbor as myself, how am I doing recognizing who my neighbors really are?" Ask and answer that question and notice how many "neighbors" we really have around us every day.
Third, we'd make a choice to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" from these new vantagepoints, and start acting on that choice. Be love in action.
I heard someone say that they've been intentionally complimenting strangers. The unsuspecting recipients of these compliments have been surprised and delighted, and the one offering the compliments has been delighted, too.
Many people are isolated, due to where they live, a physical condition, a developmental one, or some other circumstance, like being busy all the time. What's one thing you could do to love your local and global neighbors to cause them to smile, laugh, and know that they are loved?
The coolest thing happened to me the other day, right after I wrote this: I went for a bike ride on the newest section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail called the Green Line Trail, which connects Cleveland Park to the Junction and Verdae. I was only riding for about 10 minutes when I came upon a group of about 50 people, holding clipboards and having a huddle on the trail. When they saw me coming, they parted and then began cheering, whistling, and applauding as I passed. It was a spontaneous celebration for this solo rider, as if I'd just come in first in a big race. I was surprised, delighted, and smiled and laughed for a long time afterward! On my return pass, I saw a sign announcing this Friday's Green Line Run. I'll bet you anything they were the race organizers. What a great example of the power of a little neighborly love!
Think about that again. What's one thing you could do to love your neighbors everywhere to cause them to smile, laugh, and know that they are loved? Consider committing to acting on that, and then keep it up!
As someone's voicemail greeting in Asheville once said, "And remember: Love is the only thing that multiplies when you divide it".
How will you share love today?