“How rich am I when I look at the poverty of my inner life? I may have something, but am I anything? Am I not poverty-stricken as regards self-mastery, and, oh, how rich in egotism and selfishness! How wise am I? I may know all the Books of the Month, being proud of my college education, but have I ever discovered the meaning of life? Is there anything lovable in me at all? Am I not nasty and cranky? Do I not short-circuit every conversation with a fellow worker at the water cooler?
But I still love myself. I am good to myself. I give myself a good chair when I come into the room. I always order the best food, avoiding anything that does not flatter my palate. I avoid conversations that might embarrass me.
If then I can love myself, despite all of my weaknesses, failures, and faults, why can I not love my neighbor, despite all of his or her faults?… Why can I not love others, despite the way they are?”
-A.B. Fulton J. Sheen, From the Angel’s Blackboard.
I am reminded of Psalm 22.6 which reads: “But I am a worm, and not human…” I’ll leave it there in order to take it out of context, because it must be taken out of context to make my point, though my point is still valid. You may read the entire Psalm 22 to know the full meaning.
If only we were so humble to compare ourselves to worms! We would then see all persons around us as worthy of our love and respect, not only out of fear of being squashed, but also because of the humility that comes with frailty and meekness. He who sees himself as a lion (and there are even life coaches who teach a person to growl like one!) who view others as prey, because the lion is seldom humble, basks in the sunlight and picks its teeth with the bones of its prey. He doesn’t care how he is seen, as long as others have to look up at him.
And what is the answer for those who are strong, rich, or in positions of power? “The strong must see their own ignorance… If then I, who am not worth loving, am loved by Love, the least I can do for others is to do what God has done for me…if God loves me, as miserable as I am, then He must love everybody”(Sheen).
One needs to be governed by love, which is in its own nature something that must be shared. Even love of self is shared between the intellect and the conscience. When love is shared, it gives birth to compassion and sympathy. Jesus knew how to suffer with those he loved. He touched the leper to heal him. Jesus healed others without touching them, but he had to show the limitless potential of love, compassion, and sympathy. As men recoiled from the lepers, Jesus reached out and touched the leper to heal him. Fulton Sheen wrote, “How different was the attitude of Shylock, who said, “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you,…but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you”.” Shylock was a lion with a large mane.
There are too many lions in the world today, and especially here in America. Freedom has turned to permission, and that permission is granted by government, even against the faith and love of millions. But before we can ask those who are unlovable to change and to love us, so to not treat us as inferiors, we must first find a way to love the unlovable, and that includes our persecutors, for God loves each and every one of them.
It would be nice to leave this thought right there, cozy and delicate, a sweet ending. But, we also need to recognize that all Christians must stand firm against all forms of evil and sin with righteous indignation, turning over the tables at the temples of lust, power, envy, pride, murder, avarice, hatred, false gods, and so on, within ourselves first, then without. We can see here that the war the Christian fights is one against the Evil One, not against those who have been tempted or who are unlovable. We fight against the sin of homosexuality, not the homosexual; gluttony, not the alcoholic; fornication, not the unwed cohabitators; cupidity, not the hoarder; vainglory, not the authority or position. We are called to love all, because we are loved. But like Christ, we must hide away from this world at times and pray heavily. We must hate the sin, but love all, so to attest to the Almighty Love awaiting every human being, no matter how unlovable he or she may be.