Bourbon StreetI recently read a friend’s Facebook status and her New Year’s resolution, #loveyourselfmore. That little hash tagged goal spoke directly to the core of who I am. You see, of all the goals and plans and changes a person might undertake for the new year, the decision to love yourself more remains the foundation. How many of us really love ourselves unconditionally? How many folks even love themselves with conditions? Most don’t and you know that’s true…

You and I were designed to be creatures of love, from Love. Our hearts were supposed to be tender and sensitive to things and the people around us. We were created to have great peace and an absolute assurance and trust. Our lives were made to be joyful, overflowing with thankfulness for each new day. True love has no trace of fear in it, nor is it critical and fault-finding. Yet, that’s not what people experience, is it? This old world runs roughshod on people’s hearts and often we ourselves are the ones inflicting the pain!

I should offer that loving yourself more doesn’t just mean accepting your bulging midline or the crow’s-feet that surround your eyes. It’s not just staring into the mirror and telling yourself, “I love you.” It’s deeper than that! It’s something that takes place in your heart. It’s something that needs to happen in the deep recesses of your mind. And because the world is always working you over, often imperceptibly, sometimes overtly, you need to fight back all the more. You have to learn to “hear” yourself, not loving yourself. You have to get real serious and determined about this love business!

Absent God and His goodness, the best you can ever do is learn to love yourself conditionally. In childhood, we all learned that if we chose certain behaviors, the adult responses were more favorable. And even with that in mind, we didn’t always get the love we needed. It’s not about blaming our parents however, because they grew up under similar conditions and their parents before them etc. Yet within that cycle, we became adults operating under the same faulty guidelines; the notion that love was based on “good behavior.” Love isn’t a reward for doing right. Love is a decision that precedes “doing right.” Love is a choice we make and to love yourself is one of the most beautiful. But, you will never get to unconditional love until God gets involved. God is the source of unconditional love and it is His love that finally convinces us to love ourselves without condition.

Attending a conference in New Orleans, I had to make a trip to Bourbon street. So, I went with my colleagues to the infamous street and enjoyed the craziness that is that place. Yes, I saw the bead tossing and a record number of drunk people. And, as you might imagine, “when in Rome…” (smile) But, I saw something else as well. I saw great despair in the eyes of broken people living difficult lives. I saw the locals who weren’t fortunate enough to be the tourists and who were not returning to a comfy hotel. I felt their desperation and it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, as I would have emptied it all last night. I saw people who had given up on love a long time ago. I witnessed the end game of the world having its way with people and ruination that goes with it and I found it strikingly sad…

No matter your most sincere efforts to help people, you can’t really help until you learn to love yourself first. You can’t give out what you don’t have. What you’ll give out is what you’ve been  giving yourself. The criticism and self judgment you abide with won’t stay inside, but instead leaks out and affects the hearts of everyone around you. Your pain and unresolved issues will inflict active pain to, and passive apathy with, everyone you encounter. Your negative feelings toward yourself and your secret lack of self-worth serves only to devalue the masses and breathe negativity and darkness into people’s hearts; the very hearts that need your love the most. You won’t consider the kind words because you don’t hear them inside your own head. You won’t convey safety for people because you certainly don’t feel safe.

Can you imagine the change you can engender when you finally decide to love yourself ferociously, unequivocally and always? Can you start to see the impact you will have on everyone and everything, when love comes first? Love heals people’s hearts, not medicine. Love changes behavior without compulsion. Love rescues and delivers and saves. Love grinds away the layers of cement that envelopes hearts and helps them begin to feel again. Love makes pliable the hardness; warms the cold; colors the grayscale; lights the darkness; repairs and mends; makes straight the crooked; fills in the gaps; encourages, builds and makes all things grow. Love is just the greatest thing there is and you owe it to yourself to find it with earnest!

During our shenanigans on Bourbon street, one of my new friends stopped to help a young guy who said he drew pictures. All he had was a ballpoint pen and some crinkled, white sheets of paper and following him a ragged suitcase that appeared to be his home. He seemed to fade in and out of reality as he spoke and was largely inappropriate and in most cases vulgar. On and on he went with a sketch that seemed to take an hour. As we stood there anxious to move on and end the madness, she kept mouthing, “he needs my help.” When he was done she complimented his work and gave him $20 dollars, to which he exclaimed, “I love you.” The drawing wasn’t, by any means, spectacular, but the random act of kindness, love  and compassion sure was! I was blessed to experience a person who truly loved herself and was more than willing to share that wonderful love to help someone else…

Love yourself more and so much more in 2016 because you and this world desperately need it.

Just some good thoughts…




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