We hear about love all the time: from songs on the radio to memes on FaceBook, to the latest self-help book telling us how to improve our relationships and love more or better or differently.
The headline for a recent commentary in the paper caught my eye: “Let’s learn to live as if we are loved.” The writer, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, goes on to say… “It is not an easy thing – maybe the work of a lifetime – to live as if we are loved. To quiet the voices of self-condemnation. To live outside the tiny cosmos of our own desire. To extend the grace we have been shown. To act on a vision of humanity in which all are equally loved by God.” After reading this, I thought: wow, that is great, but … HOW does one actually do this, in real life??
I think, sometimes, the best way to learn about love is from those near and dear to us: our families, friends, and neighbors. So I called up my friend Josie Estill (who happens to be one of the most loving people that I know)… and invited her to lunch, to read her this quote and hear what she had to say about love.
Josie started out by saying, “The first priority is to develop self-love. And yes, it IS the work of a lifetime.” She went on to explain what led her to that conclusion: “It’s always been a priority of mine to be of service to others… to be a giver. I found that without giving to myself first, I didn’t have the strength or energy to give to others.” (Check out Barb Klein’s recent blog post on just this very topic!)
Josie explains one way she works on self-love. She noticed that she had a tendency (shared by many of us, probably), to brush off a compliment instead of taking in the good words that others say to us. So one day, she decided to “rub it in” instead of brushing it off. And now, whenever someone says something nice to her, she’ll take her hand, rub it over her heart, and say those words (yes, maybe even out loud!)… teaching herself self-love with every compliment given to her by others. This has even caught on in Josie’s circle of friends! Who among us doesn’t want to feel and take in the appreciation of others, and to use it as a foundation for our own self-love?
As our lunch progressed, Josie told me what she’s experienced over her life. She is a native of England, immigrated to the US in 1968 and has traveled all over the world. She’s seen many different cultures and types of people. Sadly, she observes that many don’t seem to have tolerance or love for those who are different. She firmly believes that self-love FIRST is the key to loving and accepting others, especially those who are different from us.
“It’s about time we realize it, we’re all in this together.
It’s about time we find out, it’s all of us or none.”
Josie sums it up by saying that a big part of what is needed in today’s world is a softening of our own hearts… practicing self-love, which becomes our foundation that allows us to develop the strength to love and serve others.
What about you? What can you do to strengthen yourself for the challenge – yes, the challenge – of loving others in this world? Now, more than ever, love is the answer.
One thing is sure though… if you hang out much with Josie, and she gives you a compliment, you’ll be “rubbing it in”! :)
-- Ann Pillman, with Josie Estill