What a Difference a Word Makes

Jesus’ famous great  commandment is to love God, and your neighbor as yourself.

We most commonly refer to this as the “Golden Rule”, or as paraphrased: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Or as we might say in our pop culture, “hey just do the right thing.”

But this allows us to slip away from the truth. It allows us to say basically that we will not actively harm anyone, and will basically treat everyone with equal good manners. We will, in effect, be nice people as we expect people to be nice to us.

And there is nothing bad in this. It is certainly laudable, and if practiced by all, would improve our world immensely.

Yet Jesus, used the words, love your neighbor as yourself, and this is something a bit different.

We are, most of us at least, trapped in our egos. Our ego is, so psychologists tell us, directed by three basic motivations: (1) the desire for power and control, (2) the desire for affection and esteem, and (3) the desire for security and survival.

It is the journey of spiritual work to get beyond these self-centered aspects of ourselves, and see the “big picture” of nonduality–that God and we are one, and that we are one with one another.

This is no easy task as Deepak Chopra reminds us in one of his statements of truth:

“Everyone is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness.”

What this means is that no one, not the ax murderer, the serial adulterer, or the bully, is acting knowingly to harm themselves. They are in fact, wrong thinking as it may be, acting out of some sense that at this moment in time, the action they take is helpful to one of those three ego objectives.

How does that impact loving neighbor as ourselves?

It suggests that just being a generally good person is not enough. If we understand ourselves to do base and inappropriate things, or at least to be pulled in that direction, that is ourself. So we are called to love all the dark places in each other, recognizing that that is ourself too.

In other words, we approach the love that the Christ and God have for us, love that is truly unconditional, that looks with pity upon our failings and our dark moments, and yet continually calls us to a higher place. That is the love that Jesus calls us to. It is a radical love, one that cannot see others as anything but reflections of ourselves. And with the same ferocity that we “love”  ourselves, we “love”  them.

This doesn’t mean we condone wrongs, nor that we don’t attempt to correct behavior. But we do so from a place of  radical love. This is what Jesus meant. Or so I believe.

Amen.

**Ideas for this post come from: Cynthia Bourgeault’s Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Jim Marion’s Putting on the Mind of Christ, and Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Thomas Bryner
    Apr 07, 2011 @ 11:04:18

    This is off topic but: Have you read Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra?

    It’s one of my favorite books, I think you’d like it- and I bet you’d get a good post out of it. 😉

    Reply

  2. jerry
    Apr 08, 2011 @ 00:48:29

    Nice post Sherry:-)

    A couple of thoughts: Love thy neighbor as thyself — Maybe it’s hard for people because deep-down in their heart, they don’t respect or love themselves and it’s difficult for them to begin to know how to treat others. Just a random thought.

    I read R. Rohr’s comment on ego today: “The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling or changing or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo, even when it is not working.” Boy– that says a lot dudn’t it?

    The desert in all of its solace and infinite widsom awaits you and the Contrarian.
    In His Love, jer…

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Apr 08, 2011 @ 13:48:48

      Jerry, thanks for the insight. I actually did consider that many of us don’t really love ourselves, but I was thinking about it in the sense that we do awful things (as well as plenty of good things) in defense of “perceived” threats to that which we define as “us”. If we define “us” as including all the bad thoughts and actions we have done, they to love others “as” us, includes accepting, forgiving, and upholding people in spite of their failings.

      I love Richard Rohr and this comment on ego is wonderful. The murderer murders in service to the ego, and you can’t get any more desperate than that can you?

      We seem to talk about next year nearly every day now. I am so looking forward to it. I loved NM when I was there for a couple of weeks (closer to El Morro). It was quite beautiful everywhere we went.

      Blessings,

      Reply

  3. Michelle
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 19:24:36

    Well said. I’ve been thinking a lot about this commandment lately.

    Reply

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