Blog # 381 ...than all the world
Some time ago a friend told me of a dream he had. In the dream he was driving down a highway. Another car, identical to his own, pulled up next to him and then moved out in front of him and cut him off so as to force him to pull to the side of the road in order not to crash. He got out of his car and walked up next to the other car and noticed the driver was himself. The dream recalled for my friend a motto he had learned years before as a boy in school that said something to the effect that we can be our own worst enemy. I suggested to my friend an addition to his motto that would read: worst enemy, or best friend.
This is true for several reasons. One of them is the fact each of us is unique. There is no other person who ever was, is, or will be, you or I. We are like the topmost branch of a tree. There may be many trees around us, before us, and to come after us, with their own topmost branches, but we are the only topmost branch of this tree. There is no other.
As a result of this, we alone are capable of knowing ourselves from within, as we really are, and of loving ourselves as we really are. Others can compare us to themselves and others, and make judgments as to how we seem to be to them, but only we can know and judge ourselves from within.
We can share much of who we are, feelings, hopes, fears, and desires, with others, but only we can experience our own personal individual self.
In consequence, we see the meaning and truth of the motto about being our own worst enemy or best friend. We make the real decisions about ourselves, the direction we are going to go with our lives, the things we are going to try to do, the thoughts we are going to have, and the desires we are going to keep. We may fail a math test, but love ourselves for having tried the best we could. We may be rich and happy, or poor and happy. We may be rich and sad, or poor and sad. We, you, I, have the largest and most significant part in our unique identity. We can be our own worst enemy, or our own best friend.
It takes a certain degree of self-awareness for all of this to be experienced by us. It seems the lives of many people are so affected by habit, custom, pleasure, social pressure, or violence they are not consciously aware of their own possible freedom and capacity consciously to make decisions about themselves, to identify themselves over and over again, even in new ways, somewhat independently of all that goes on around them. As a result such people seem to be living on a lower level than our distinctively human level. There is so little self-awareness, such little true freedom, and so many outside influences, that our motto applies only to a very limited degree. Other things, other persons, take our place as our worst enemies and best friends.
I do not think this is the way God desires it to be. Otherwise what would be the meaning and impact of the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? As we love ourselves we are to love one another. As we avoid injuring ourselves we are to avoid injuring others.
From as long ago as the first Century before Jesus, the author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us of some of the difficulties in this. We find ourselves timid and unsure of what to do and how to act, our minds reaching for truth and our wills desiring what is good, but the body with its limitations and needs slowing us down and inviting frustration. But hope comes from confidence that God is present to us, not only as designing us as we are, but also in sharing with us divine wisdom, teaching us of the value and purpose of things around us and of ourselves, our value and our God-given destiny. In Luke's Gospel ( 9: 25), Jesus asks the question what good would it be to gain the whole world and destroy ourselves in the process. There He indicated a person is more valuable than any and all things. In chapter 14 of Luke, He goes further with His teaching, and makes the claim that He, Jesus, is greater, more valuable than not only things, but even persons, those whom we are to love as we love ourselves, those closest to us, who have given us most, father, mother, wife, children, and even our unique self !
To say yes or no to this is surely one of the most significant decisions we can make. The opportunity for doing so is constantly given throughout our lives. To say yes takes faith, trust, and love. The reason we will not be cheated in our saying yes is that Jesus is God. He, in His human experience here on earth had the same yes to live. He said it best on the wood, trading everything and everyone, even His mother, for His love for the Father. At that moment He was His own best friend, trading all that He had on earth for all that is! We are offered in Him the same bargain.