I used to fashion myself a hippie of sorts. I used to use phrases like, “Follow your bliss.” And “You do you.” And “love your neighbor as yourself.”
They sound good. They sound liberating and freeing. They sound happy.
But then I realized that the good things in life barely come around as a result of bliss. They usually stem from hard work, dedication, and a dying to self. Bliss, rather, usually leads one to immediate gratification and hedonism.
So “follow your bliss”? Strike that.
And then there’s the “you do you,” and “Be yourself.” Overall, those are great. There’s nothing worse than trying to fit ourselves into molds that don’t fit. We are all unique and individual, and we need to respect that in ourselves and others.
The problem with overly focusing on those messages, however, is that these, too, often lead us down a hedonistic path. Too often these are used as justification for hurting others or abandoning our values. They convince us that it’s okay to hurt others to advance ourself. Too often, they lead us to selfishness.
So this one still stands. But we have to be careful with it.
And then there’s the Biblical wisdom of “love your neighbor as yourself.” I was actually reading that Bible verse just the other day.
I’m not going to bash this one. There’s so much to be learned about life and love and wisdom from those brief words. No, with this one the problem isn’t in the message. Rather, it’s in the interpretation.
So (so so) often I hear people use these words to try to convince us to accept any and every decision a person makes as good. But is that loving? Is that how I would want others to treat me? Or my children?
If my children are on the wrong path, I don’t let them go that way just because it will give them temporary happiness. If I see my child constantly watching television because it makes her happy, I’m not going to let her do it because I know that in the long run it will not lead to happiness. It will lead to problems.
And if I, myself, am really messing up and I’m hurting other people or myself, I don’t love myself by telling myself that it’s okay. I don’t accept those actions in myself. No. I hope I love myself enough to expect more of myself.
So where does that leave us with other people?
Now I am most surely not advocating judging another person as good or bad. And I’m not telling anyone to go out and scream at other people or disparage other people or necessarily even tell other people what you believe. Sometimes silence is the best option. (And sometimes not.)
But what I am saying is that loving someone is not the same as always agreeing with them, and it’s surely not the same as hiding our opinion when it’s asked for or pretending that those opinions or beliefs don’t exist.
Lately I hear people being told that they are not loving because they do not agree with actions of other people. But loving isn’t the same as condoning. It’s not the same as agreeing. And it’s not even the same as approving.
No. What loving means is respecting. And sometimes respect requires us to stand our ground. To believe that people can do better. To believe that people can overcome. To believe that people can use their strength and their courage and their integrity to do so.
So if someone tells me to love my neighbor as myself, I will give a wholehearted and enthusiastic, “yes!”
But I’m going to love them in the real way. The full way.
I’m not perfect. I make mistakes all the time. I hurt people. I say the wrong thing. I make bad choices. But I love myself enough to acknowledge them and to expect more from myself. And I love others enough to do that as well. Even if I do it respectfully and silently.
Most people don’t want my opinion on their actions, and as such, I’m not going to force it. But I also don’t want people believing there’s something wrong with me because I have an opinion. And I don’t want people telling me to lie. And I’m not going to feel sorry for having those opinions.
So feel free to disagree with me. You can have opinions on my beliefs. But share them respectfully if you choose to share them. Or keep them to yourself. I won’t judge you for having them. Please don’t judge me.
I think somewhere inside of me that old hippie is still hiding. She still believes all those same things about a beautiful world and the power of love and the warmth of a kind soul. But now I guess I just see people as being a bit more multifaceted. And I want to respect all of those facets – even if it’s not always as pretty.