You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

-Matthew 22:39, Jesus of Nazareth

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

-Galatians 5:14

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, and who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering him said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you.  Which now of these three was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do likewise.

-Luke 10: 29-37

How is it that you love yourself? Do you love yourself by being your own worst critic? Do you talk badly to yourself? Are you never good enough to meet your own expectations? Do you beat yourself up for all of the missteps you have taken, never granting yourself forgiveness? Do you abuse yourself by continuing in behaviors which are harmful, such as addictions and unhealthy habits? Do you ignore yourself when you are in crisis and need special care? If this describes your relationship with yourself, chances are, the way you show love to your neighbor follows the same pattern. That’s not love!

This is the problem people encounter with the instruction, love your neighbor as yourself. To love anyone well, we must learn how to love ourselves skillfully, first. This is the foundation upon which all of our other relationships rest. Because we learn our patterns in our families, unless we step past our early learning, most of us will not learn what healthy self-love means. Unhealthy self-love is either overly permissive or overly punitive. A healthy mindset combines accountability with compassion. Milestones are achieved through encouragement, not shame, blame, or derision.

It is possible to learn a lot about how a person treats himself through observing how he treats and talks to others.  People follow patterns, deeply engraved in their neural pathways. We are behaviorally trained and re-trained, and unless deliberate effort is applied to change our patterns, we follow our conditioned pathway like a river meander. This applies to both self and others.

If you want to learn how to have peaceful, productive relationships in your personal life, community, country, and world, it is necessary to first make peace with yourself and learn how to love yourself well, with compassion and accountability. This requires constructing a life which is healthy in body, mind, and spirit.