Sunday, November 20, 2011

On absurdity and unkindness

Years ago, I had a dear friend who had anorexia and bulimia. One night, very early in our friendship (when I didn't know about her eating disorders), she looked at me and cried, "You are so thin, and I am so fat!" I was so confused. Her size-zero pants looked baggy on her. I will not tell you the size of my pants, but I can tell you that I was (and still am) not a size-zero.

I told her that she needed to love herself more.

A year after that incident, I was asked to give a workshop in the juvenile justice facilities on sexual harassment. I walked into a classroom containing twenty-two blank stares in blue uniforms. By the end of the workshop, we were a wreck. Some were crying, most were distraught, four admitted that they had been raped.

I left them with colorful bookmarks telling them to love themselves.

Weeks ago, Yohanan was teething (the well-used excuse for fussing). He just had a flu shot. His skin felt warmer than usual, a slight fever. He looked at me and his hand patted his chest, signing "Please." Hold me, mommy, just hold me.

Then, I understood
the absurdity
of the colorful bookmarks,
the unkindness
of telling my friend to love herself.

Girls in blue uniforms stood before my mind's eyes, their blank stares judged me. No, Miss, we cannot love ourselves. Can't you see, Miss? We are hurt, and broken, and sick.

How do we see ourselves?
Are we gods and goddesses -- the way they sing about us on the radio?
Or do we see ourselves as God sees us?


Children, toddlers, babies--
faces of beauty in the fullness of their glory,
helpless, rebellious, center of our universes,
always manage to get our hands on some poison or choking hazards,
prone to wander, falls, and pain.

We are children
like Yohanan,
we are not able to love ourselves.

When I see my children sinking in their self-inflicted misery, I don't tell them to love themselves. No, I tell them that Mommy and Daddy love them. I tell them that their Maker and Savior loves them. And then, we would dance, and sing, and hold on to one another (until, of course, I have to make dinner).

Love
looks to others.
When love looks to the self, it becomes something else.

8 comments:

Olivia said...

so beautiful

Catherine said...

D: D: !!!!

Seda said...

=) such different responses!

E! said...

more often than "love yourself,"

what i am told is "love God" ... if you only loved Him with ALL your innermost being. all your faculties. all your mindfulness.

absurd, unkind, impossible. unless He first loves us.

Seda said...

Praise be to God that he has first loved us. =)

Michelle said...

There is a lack of understanding, though, that looks like a need to love self more-- a lack of assurance/ confidence in Christ. I watched a woman weep yesterday when I told her that her ability to weave a story was evidence that she was made in God's image: Christ was a storyteller. She had never seen that wretched habit as a gift. I am burdened that she would know the full assurance of understanding in Christ. It's not self-love, but perhaps a more accurate sense of self. (Thinking about Colossians 2:2-3)

Michelle said...

I wasn't disagreeing, though. Perhaps I'm speaking too quickly. I'm trying to articulate an apparent value in understanding I am created in God's image-- without succumbing to the self love/ self esteem slough.

Seda said...

Thanks, Michelle. Always good to hear thoughts from you. I agree with you about the lack of self-knowledge. If we know who we truly are, we would live very differently.