Some years ago, I had an epiphany: If God loves every person, if every person is of equal value and worth in God’s eyes, then God loves me as much as anyone else. Not more than anyone else, but as much as anyone else. I am a person God loves. I don’t have to earn that love. I can’t lose that love. And, in any situation, I am as important as the other people. I may choose to sacrifice to serve others, but it is not my Christian or spiritual duty to always put myself last. I am part of the mix, and God cares as much about me as the other people in the mix.
“God cares as much about me as the other people in the mix.”
Does that statement surprise you? Shock you? Challenge you?
Query: If I believe that each person is loved by God and of equal worth in the eyes of God, if I believe that every person deserves to be treated with equal human dignity, if I believe that that inherent worth and dignity is not dependent on “works,” does that apply to me, as well? Am I as important as any other person? Am I as worthy of love and support as any other person?
The answer may be obvious: of course I am. Of course you are. And yet…
How does that fit with “it is better to give than to receive” and the values of “sacrifice” and “service.”? I was taught to put others first. I was taught that if I could be of assistance, I should. And those are all laudable, wonderful values. I am not willing to set them aside.
But what about those times I am exhausted caring for my kids/my aging parent/trying to earn a living – do my needs count then? We who have been parents or caregivers of any sort know that sometimes it is necessary to put the needs of others before our own. And we also know we need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to continue to take care of others. But where is the line? Is there a line?
In a recent audio, Tara Mohr, author of the book Playing Big, put forth the concept of “Love 360.” Love 360 is love that goes “all the way around the circle [of people].” In an e-mail linking to the recording, Tara said, in part:
Several months ago, I had one of those moments when I just couldn’t figure out how to take care of myself and others at the same time. It was bedtime for my kids, and I was particularly spent. Exhausted. Overwhelmed….[T]hat night, I remembered I can always ask for help. So I asked – the bigger intelligence, Spirit, Life – what to do. What I heard back, almost immediately, was this: Love has got to be Love 360. 360 degrees. The love has to radiate all the way around to everyone in the circle, 360 degrees, including myself….I could feel the foreignness of this as I contemplated it. What was it, not to try to love myself in general, in some global, ongoing way, but to be loving to myself in this same moment when I was caring for someone else? That was the crux of it, the simultaneity: I will find what is love for you and love for me in this moment….Your answers to “What is Love 360 here? Will be unique. What matters is that we learn to ask in difficult moments, in relationships, at crossroads, what is Love 360 here? Whether you are caring for a child or parent or a whole organization or project in midstream – whatever and whoever you are caring for, may you ask: What is Love 360 here, love all the way around?
Does the word “selfish” come to mind? Demanding? Insistent on one’s own way? These are not Love 360. But my experience is that trying too hard to avoid being selfish, self-centered, or demanding, shoving down even any thought that has the slightest tinge of selfishness – just sends those things into the shadow. And the shadow always comes out – in insidious and harmful ways.
This is not to say that we never choose to serve others, that we never sacrifice for others. But is sacrifice that is not freely chosen truly sacrifice? It may be people pleasing, low self-esteem, or trying to curry favor with God or another person, but it is not sacrifice. It may in some way be service, but it is most likely not loving service. And unloving service can sometimes do more harm than good.
What is Love 360 here, all the way around the circle? Is it possible there is a way to meet the needs of everyone in this situation? Sometimes it is enough just to remember that in the midst of this challenge, this exhaustion, you are loved. At other times, it may mean listening to a recording while putting the kids to bed rather than reading a book, or putting aside your pride or the story that you “should” be able to handle this, and calling a friend or neighbor for help. Remember the difference between needs and strategies to meet those needs. ICYMI: https://wingedlifecoaching.com/are-you-needy-or-do-you-know-someone-who-is/
I’m continuing to wrestle with these ideas. I sense that, as with many spiritual conundrums, there is no hard and fast “rule” to follow, just the ever-present Love of God that wants to be infused into every person, in every relationship, in every situation – including in the very moment that it seems impossible.
Invitation to Action:
Next time you are in a situation where it feels like your needs conflict with someone else’s, take a step back. Remember the difference between needs and strategies to meet those needs. Remember Love 360.
And, if in the midst of an overwhelming moment, you forget, it can be helpful to review the situation after the fact: replay the situation in your mind and consider what other responses might have been available, or might be available in a similar situation in the future.
Want to hear more from Tara Mohr on this subject? https://www.taramohr.com/coaching-and-conversation/july-18-2021/Check out some of the other Sunday sessions while you’re there.