• Stephanie Hammond

Love your neighbour ...

Jesus said “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Ever the philosopher, many times over the course of my life I’ve pondered this quote from the angle of ‘love as you love yourself’. How do I love myself? How CAN I love myself, was more to the point. I could give you a dozen examples to show that there wasn’t much to love about me at one time or another in my life.

So perhaps most of my time looking for clarity has been spent on getting to understand this concept of self love. Over the years I’ve read many self development books. Each one has brought me to a closer understanding, and given me an extra ounce of love, of myself.

As I’ve learned about what it means to be human, I’ve learned that it’s not so much about the mistakes I’ve made but about the learnings I’ve gleaned from those mistakes. It’s not so much about how many times I’ve fallen off the wagon, so to speak, as to how many times I’ve got back on.

Some of my stories make me cringe, others make me glad for the growth. So it was with ‘judgement’. I was one quick to judge and that lead to gossip. If I was ever in the presence of my friend Wendy and started gossipping, without fail, Wendy would say something nice about that person. Every time I’d counter with another judgement, she’d come back with yet another nice thing. Her motto was, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I was learning from her, but it took a very public episode to embed the learning into my heart.

I had a friend who I swear looked like a fashion model from the time she got out of bed. She was married to this really rough chap - I wouldn’t even call him a rough diamond. This was her second marriage, so I didn’t know him much before they married. One day I was sounding off about not knowing what on earth she saw in him when I was interrupted by someone unfortunate enough to be within hearing.

“I met his sister the other day,” she said. “And according to her, the whole family are really grateful and happy he’s married her because he’s changed so much for the better.”

Well, I was humbled and chastised. I don’t think anyone noticed, but from that moment on I watched my tongue. And a strange thing happened. I grew to appreciate myself as my thoughts turned towards finding nice things to say and see about people. I became more like my friend Wendy. So much so that it actually hurts me to hear people saying negative things about others, especially when they don’t know the other person’s heart.

I was beginning to understand what it meant to love your neighbour ‘as yourself’.

I found another way of expressing it from a brief encounter with a great teacher during a visit to London. He was asked: ‘But how can we love our neighbour all the time?’

His reply has never left me. It brings peace to my heart and joy to my day. When I feel negativity rising, I remember his words:

“Make your next thought a loving thought and you can’t help but love your neighbour - and yourself.”

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