Love Yourself as You Would Love Others

affair recovery-survivors blog-elizabeth-love yourself as you would love others

Self-Love.

Self-Worth.

Self-Compassion.

These are words that I have had to unlearn and relearn—words that I thought I knew, but now realize I misunderstood for most of my life. Now, they actually mean something to me.

Growing up, I would attend church with my mom and siblings. I had just enough of a smattering of church "sayings" and knowledge about the Bible to become familiar with them. But honestly, there was far more I did not understand than what I did understand. Most of the time, when I went to church as a kid, I always had a sense I was in trouble or "doing it wrong." I never felt a sense of belonging, and I remember desperately wanting to believe everything I was learning was true, but not understanding how it could be true.

I would see a picture on the wall of this Jesus, wearing a white robe and surrounded by sheep, and I would get confused. This certainly wasn't someone that I felt could relate to the doubts and discomfort I was feeling. I would hear how much this "Jesus" guy loved me, but then I would also hear how bad my sinfulness was, and I didn't know what to do with either. I pretty much came away with the assumption that I needed to clean up my act or I was going to be judged. Maybe that was why my father never went to church.

One idea that I would hear a lot in church was the "Golden Rule"—the idea that we should "do unto others what you would have them do unto you." What that meant to me was that you were supposed to elevate everyone else's needs above your own. To a little girl who was already questioning if she mattered in this world, it just further cemented this idea in my head that I should be last. It was a junk yard dog mentality that said, "just take the scraps." Everyone else must have something you don't, so keep your doubts, insecurities, and questions to yourself.

When you are the unfaithful spouse, it is easy to adopt this mindset and assume that after what you have done, you deserve to be treated like dirt. It is easy to see yourself as dirt.

However, this is wrong and simply untrue.

We can't change the consequences of what we have done, but we don't have to keep treating ourselves badly in the process.

Even if you don't go to church or believe in the Bible, I think we can all take something away from Jesus. He lived to help us all become better humans. His concept of loving others as we love ourselves was the basis of his ministry.

Where I got this wrong was looking at His words backwards. I think Jesus was saying that all along, we are to love others as we love ourselves, but here's where I missed it: I was supposed to love ME first. I was supposed to figure out who I was, fill my cup, ask for help, and admit my own shame first. Instead of loving others well, I didn't love them at all. I was loving them just as I secretly saw myself: shameful, mistrusting, and hopeless.

If I had begun to see myself the way God sees me, I would have maybe known that it was okay to start to ask for what I needed. I would have actually trusted the words of church leaders who had offered time and time again for me to bring my secrets and shame to the foot of the cross. Instead of holding onto information, I could have trusted my husband when he had begged me to tell him who I really was. I could have loved him much better had I had learned to love myself.

If you are an unfaithful spouse navigating how to come back from the really poor choices you have made, I ask that we stop with the assumption of, "this is what I deserve," and, "after what I did, who can blame them for hating me." Trust me when I say that this will not help anyone heal.

Jesus tells us that there is no condemnation in Him.

Self-kindness is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp, especially when we are drowning in shame or your betrayed spouse is hurting. To treat ourselves with compassion when we feel like we deserve stones, seems unfair. However, self-condemnation will actually prevent healing. It won't change the consequences, and it will actually keep us stuck in a pretty selfish and awful place.

The old saying, "you can't give away what you don't have" is true. It is only by kindness that I have figured out how to love myself and others the way I always wanted to. Learning to see, like, and love myself in spite of what I have done has been the biggest motivator for change. To love others as we love ourselves is to also learn to take care of ourselves just as we would take care of someone else. It has meant that I have had to treat myself with more kindness and understanding than I am often comfortable with.

-Elizabeth

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