Two of my favorite Bible passages are in Matthew. The first is in chapter 7. Some people refer to it as The Golden Rule:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 7:12
I too believe that this verse sums up the law and the prophets, or the entire bible. Maybe though the focus is going in the wrong direction. Maybe instead of focusing on the “others” and “them” part, we should focus on the “you” part.
Let me tell you a story.
When I was in church work, I used to use a little acrostic to help people understand the way to find inner peace or joy. I used the word JOY and it stood for Jesus, Others and You.
The way I taught this acrostic was if you put Jesus and others before yourself, you will find joy.
That was backwards. You can’t love others, including Jesus, if you don’t love yourself first. It’s impossible.
Joy and peace is inside you. That’s why it’s called inner peace. We look for it outside ourselves most of the time, but you can’t find it there.
Peace and joy
In order to truly find peace and joy, we must love. But we need to get the order of loving right. I will use the acrostic YOGOWYCYHP. It goes like this.
Y — The Y stands for you. You have to start here. If you don’t love yourself, you will be incapable of loving anyone else. The verses above say “love your neighbor as YOUrself” and “what you wish for others to do to YOU, do to them.” If you don’t like yourself, how will you treat others? I think we all know the answer.
Loving yourself isn’t always easy. We tend to grow up with a lot of guilt here in the West. Everywhere we look is another way to feel guilty.
Look at all the stuff you have.
Why can’t you be more like little Johnny? He’s perfect.
Stop masturbating or you’ll go blind.
That’s a lot of guilt to hang on to.
Next thing you know, you don’t like yourself too much because you have too much stuff, you mess up too much or you touch yourself. It’s exhausting. And then you start projecting your own “sins” onto those around you. You don’t like them because you see too much of yourself in others.
How do we overcome that?
First off, don’t judge. And start with yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes. They aren’t necessarily good or bad, they just are. The only way a mistake can be bad is if you continue to dwell on it and don’t move on to live in the now. If you do something you don’t like too much, instead of feeling guilty, feel forgiveness for yourself. You are a human being trying your best.
And then …
O — The O stands for others. After we start loving ourselves more and stop judging our own missteps, it’s a little easier to see that other people are really just like us. They are human beings trying their best. As a matter of fact, they stop being “others” and they become one of us, brothers and sisters, unified, unstoppable.
Before long, even the people we don’t necessarily like to be around can feel our love, peace, joy, and non-judgment. We realize that to judge others is really judging ourselves. Nobody wants that.
If you want others to treat you like you would treat you, then make sure you treat you in a positive, loving, joyful way. Then you will be able to love your neighbors the same way and they will love you right back.
GOWYCYHP — The GOWYCYHP stands for God Or Whatever You Call Your Higher Power. After you start loving yourself, you are able to love others. Then you can start loving everything else. Some people call that “everything” else God or Allah or whatever. Sometimes it’s animals or nature or something that really can’t be explained or even seen. Ultimately, it’s the thing outside of us that is bigger than us. It’s the thing that connects us.
Shoot. Maybe the acrostic should just be
There is nothing else. All of creation is made up of the same stuff as a tree, a mountain, a stream, a computer, a car or the cast of a reality television show.
Practice loving you, because in the end, that’s all there really is.