There is an article in Relevant magazine by Mike Mc Hargue about keeping humility in the proper perspective and how that can effect our ability to do what Jesus commanded - to love your neighbor as yourself. It seems that he has recognized a pattern in many Christian people toward self hatred that he believes effects our abilities to love others. This makes perfect sense, but at the same time, the self loathing aspect of their character is many times what drives them (us, meaning me) to achieve things we could not otherwise achieve.
He talks about talented Christian people that he knows that find the work they do with their talents unsatisfactory or even poor. At the place where I work, we call that "constructive dissatisfaction". It's actually a "best practice" designed to create processes of continual improvement over time and it works. We will take a look at what works and try to make it work better.
Many creative people use this process to push themselves. It can create an unhealthy mental state if you are not able to improve on what you did previously, but then if that's the case, it can also help you sort out what you are good at and what you have no business being involved in.
A few years ago I tried my hand at writing poetry and prose. I enjoyed the creation process, but my product always ended up sounding like something from Dr. Seuss....not that there's anything wrong with that. I do have some proverbs that I wrote and may one day share with y'all, but I think my poetry days have pretty much ended. I am not very good at it. That kind of writing did serve a purpose in my life though. It was a method I used to quantify what I knew about the world, the Bible and myself. And that last bit was quite therapeutic. It helped me to vent a lot of spiritual and mental pain. And while I am aware that there may be some argument about this, I think I am mentally and spiritually healthier now, having gone through that process even if it meant I gave up the poetry.
You see, it was the pain and anguish that drove the poetry. Today, much of that is gone or I have at least become mature enough to deal with it in the proper perspective. Getting old is wonderful for that very reason.
To my mind, the thing that really drives one's ability to love oneself and be able to love others is this. Friendship. Attaining quality friendships and learning healthy ways of interacting with other people that do not lead to acrimony, envy or self loathing. Friends build each other up. Friends do not use each other. Friends respect and love each other and their differences and they help one another to see their strengths and weaknesses in light of God's plan for their lives.
I have had many people in my life that I have called friends that were merely acquaintances. These were fairly shallow relationships, but they were good for the time and good times were had.
There have been about 5 people in my lifetime that I would call genuine friends. Trust and love developed in the friendships and this is a rare and precious thing. These people have helped me with my personal issues simply because they were willing to sacrifice a bit of themselves to get to know me. I hope they gained something from knowing me too, besides a headache. Of the 5, one is dead. Another is no longer a close friend even though she knows most everything about me. It's kind of like we had a respectful divorce, but that's an issue for another post. There is another that comments on this blog from time to time that I have known most of my life. The other two are professional God-botherers (as opposed to my amateur standing - I'm not in the union).
Of the last two, one has become an "old friend" even though he is not old and the other is a new friend that I hope to become closer to as our friendship develops. These two are completely different in their personalities but I love them both. If I had children, I would want sons like these two.
The thing that all 5 of these people have in common is that they have pushed me or push me from time to time - to think, to do or to change. This is what I think everyone needs from their friends to get a proper perspective on themselves and what they can do. This process has also helped me to learn to love. I'm still not real good at this, but it's getting better I think.
It's true that loving yourself is a key aspect to learning to love others, but I think that only happens by actually doing both in relationship - in friendship.
Let me just say one more thing to my friend Eric. Buddy, you probably do not even realize this, but our friendship did more to get me above water and breathing again than just about anything in my life to date. I can't thank you enough. I miss you. The amazing part is that you really didn't do anything except be my friend (and drop my rod in the pond). Thanks Man!
Friends are the ticket. Find yourself some.