During the holiday season, we celebrate the love of friends and family, and this week of Advent we anticipate the love of the coming Christ. As we seek to live out Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor as yourself” throughout this season, we often forget an essential piece of the second greatest commandment.
For many of us who are taught to give and serve sacrificially, we miss the poignancy of the last bit of this phrase — in order to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we have to love ourselves! When it comes to body image and taking care of oneself, it can be very difficult to remain positive and to channel feelings of love. Often self-care is dominated by guilt and shame, rather than love and respect. During this busy time of year, it can be difficult to prioritize one’s own health when the pressure is to take care of everyone else first. This is particularly tempting for pastors, parents, congregational nurses, and many others in helping roles and professions. It can feel selfish or self-centered; however, to effectively give and serve, we need to care for, and love, ourselves.
In the documentary “Hungry for Change,” the filmmakers explore the trap of cyclical dieting and the importance of whole food nutrition. But the documentary ends on a surprising note — love. Evita Ramparte, a health journalist being interviewed, says, “Something happens when you take care of yourself — you realize you are precious…and you give other people permission to be in love with themselves.” It is a common tendency to beat ourselves up if we have a failed dieting attempt or get out of our workout routine. Many of us talk to ourselves in ways we would never consider speaking to a friend, colleague or family member.
During this Advent, and into the New Year, may we accept ourselves with love and grace, honoring our bodies and extending this love to others.