Faith Friday: Divine Love or Self-Love?

Friday, May 12, 2017

"When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness." - Thich Nhat Hanh

What if I told you the only thing standing between you and happiness is self-love? "What about love and money?" you ask. Well... yes, they do help us create a fulfilling life but the key to having them is self-love.

What is self-love? 

The term 'self-love' initially made me uncomfortable but perhaps that was a sign that I didn't understand what it means to love myself. I associated self-love with selfishness, conceit, arrogance and complacency, things I strive to avoid and eliminate from my state of being. I used to think self-love was antithetical to Islam and the act of seeking divine love because it's a faith that is characterised by modesty, self-denial and humility, but I realised God said, "But those who committed misdeeds and then repented after them and believed - indeed your Lord, thereafter, is Forgiving and Merciful.... My Mercy encompasses all things" (Surah al-A'raf 153, 156). If God is Merciful towards us, we should be merciful towards ourselves too. We can still be kind to ourselves while being faithful, modest and humble. It's time to understand the differences between humility and self-deprecation and compassion and complacency. It's time we embrace and understand our humanness.

Today, I define self-love as self-compassion - the art of being kind to one self. It's simple but revolutionary because it involves a paradigm shift. 

Being kind to yourself is more than about being nice to yourself. Kindness entails honesty, authenticity, forgiveness, sincerity, gentleness and having good intentions. When someone is compassionate,  thoughtful, wants the best for us, sees the good and value in us and withholds judgment, they're being kind. What if we treated ourselves this way?

Our lack of compassion for ourselves and for others is the reason why the words uttered by Prophet Yunus remain a powerful supplication today: "There is no deity but You. Glory be to You! Verily, I have been among the wrongdoers/oppressors" (Surah Anbiya, 87). We don't have to choose between divine love and self-love because they are interdependent and interconnected. We oppress ourselves and others when we lack self-love. Why are we unkind to ourselves when everything God decrees or allows is out of His Wisdom and Mercy? Even when He allows us to go through hardships He is like a teacher who is giving us the lessons we need to succeed in life or a doctor who prescribes unpleasant tasting medicine for us to consume until we are better. The unpleasantness is only temporary. Who knows what great blessing you will receive in the future because of what you patiently endure today or because of what you've learned from your trials and hardships?