“That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy … all these are undoubtedly great virtues … but what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of the beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of …the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?” ~Carl Jung
Yes, what then? This is an excellent question. And oddly enough, the question itself has given me a hint toward finding an answer to a bigger question that has been haunting me: how do I learn to love myself when I can find nothing that looks lovable to me?
I have no problem at all with the idea that I could find the most grievous offenders, the most needy of souls, and the ugliest of fiends within me. I’ve never had much trouble locating and being aware of my many faults. (And if I ever miss any, there is usually someone around who is more than willing to point out my blind spots!)
Instead, my struggle has always been with self-love. I hear and read so much about the importance of loving oneself but it’s not always clear how to go about doing that. How do I love a self that I often find so ugly and unlovable? How do I look past all my failings to find someone worth loving?
This quote makes me think that perhaps I’ve had it all backwards. Maybe the goal shouldn’t be about finding something in myself worth loving. Perhaps the real goal is to love myself even when I can’t find anything lovable at all.
After all, is that not what we sometimes must do with our enemies? We only discover what is loveable about them once we have already learned to look at them with eyes of love.
Perhaps that’s really the key to self-love too: learning to love even that within myself that does not seem loveable. Just as is true with our enemies, maybe the kindness and the love come first.
Of course, I’ve never been all that good at loving my enemies either, so this doesn’t give me much of a head start on learning to love the parts of myself that I don’t like very much. Nevertheless, the clue that I have been going at it all backwards is an important one. It means that I can refocus my attention from trying to find things about myself that are loveable to simply loving myself no matter what.
And in all truth, I probably am kinder to my enemies much of the time than I am to myself. So if I can’t make it all the way to loving the fiend within, perhaps I can at least start with being a bit kinder? It’s worth a try.
How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t admire very much? Are you able to love yourself even when you see things in yourself that you don’t find very loveable?