8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
In this passage from Romans we are called to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” While it sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, the call to love your neighbor can be a tall order, because this call includes ALL of our neighbors, not just the ones we like!
It is easy to treat the people we like with compassion and respect, to mean them no harm and do them no wrong…but it can be more difficult to treat those we do not like, or feel resentments toward with love. It can be especially hard when our ‘neighbors’ even those we have cared about, have hurt us in some way.
Many of us became single parents through some sort of loss: a divorce, the break-up of a relationship or a death. In any of these cases there can be some animosity toward the ‘other’ parent – even in the case of death, where we can feel resentment against the person we lost regardless of whether or not these feelings can be justified in any way.
We can also feel resentments towards our children, when they defy us, or when their behavior leaves us feeling worried, frustrated or just plain disappointed; we can even feel an un-reasonable resentment towards them for the demands that they put on our time and how being a single parent has changed our lives. These are resentments that we do want to have but we are prone to them from time to time.
It can be really difficult to love those we feel resentful towards, mostly because we feel like they have not always treated us very lovingly; instead we may actually revel in our resentments, calling it ‘justifiable anger’. However, I have learned that justifiable anger can only hurt myself and is not a very good example to give to my daughter…as carrying around a resentment can be wear me out and the resentment can spread like mold, and if left unchecked can corrupt all around it!
Instead, it is better to let go of our resentments, and to work on forgiveness, which can lead to acceptance. This does not mean that what happened is okay, or that we have to reconcile or simply spend any time with our ‘enemies’, but it does mean that we will let go of the past and move forward, allowing us to truly begin to love our neighbors; and this is a good example to show to our children!
Now to the part of this reading that is often overlooked: when we are told to love ourselves…as one of the first steps towards being able to forgive others and make amends with them is to first to forgive ourselves for what we have done wrong. Although we may often want to believe that we have done nothing wrong and are totally blameless in any conflict, whether with an ‘ex’, our children, other family members, or those who have hurt us…in most cases (unless there is actual abuse) no one is completely blameless…and if we can take responsibility for our part in any disagreement, and then forgive ourselves, we can begin the process of making amends.
When we can learn to love ourselves, remembering that we are walking in the light of the forgiveness given to us through Christ, then we can work on starting to love and forgive our neighbors, our children and even those people who annoy us by cutting us off in traffic, cut in line at the grocery store, or yell at us when our dogs are barking too loudly or we take their parking space.
When we learn to love ourselves and others, this can make us better parents as we become more open to the advice of others, and more forgiving of our children…showing them by our actions how faith works, and how we can all carry the light of Christ, through following the simple command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for loving us as your children, giving us forgiveness and hope through the sacrifice of Christ. Please help us to follow your command to love our neighbors as ourselves…to show all of our neighbors, including our own children, their ‘other’ parent, and everyone we come into contact with each day. Let us remember that the first step to loving and forgiving others is to love and forgive ourselves.