Loving your neighbour and oneself

Loving your neighbour and oneself

The scriptural dictum ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is a familiar one.

Simple and pithy, it has a wealth of meaning for those who perceive and understand it as a metaphor. They will see it as a working principle, which cutting across religion and creed, is applicable to all. The literal-minded, however, will miss its deeper meaning. The question uppermost in their minds would be, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

The dictionary defines ‘neighbour’ as a person who lives next door to you or is close to you. Maintaining a good relationship with such a person has many advantages. Chiefly, it is a promise of harmony and happiness. Cordiality and politeness go a long way in making life easier and more pleasant. In times of trouble, reliable help is readily available. On the other hand, a confrontational attitude spells acrimony and heartache and, since one may live without friends but not without neighbours, it is best to adopt a policy of give and take.

The saying, however, goes far beyond this. In fact, the dictionary provides yet another meaning for ‘neighbour’. It reads, ‘any other person’. In this sense,’ ‘loving your neighbour’ stands for a great deal more. It means caring for your family, the person next door, the persons living on your street, your city, your country and indeed the world at large.

But is it possible to love all of them? Is this not asking too much of anyone? It certainly would be if we equate ‘love’ with sacrifice or ‘giving up’. By its very nature, such giving can be expected only from the family or those very close to us. Serving the world at large in this way would be impractical as well as impossible.

However, drop the word ‘up’ from ‘giving up’ and an entire change of meaning takes place. Shorn of compulsion and duty, ‘love’ now turns into giving others respect and consideration. It is something every one of us is capable of, for it arises from being compassionate and mindful of others.

Man, being a social animal, needs to live in harmony with others. This cannot happen unless one reaches out to others and understands their feelings. All this calls for is keeping others needs in mind and allowing some room for compassion in the heart.
For the integrated person, compassion and kindness are a source of satisfaction and happiness. In the act of giving, such a person feels his or her own strength and value. It is empowering as well as enriching.

It follows inevitably that to love other people around you, you have to love yourself first. You cannot give what you do not possess. If you do not have a million rupees, you cannot donate it. This in no way means selfishness. It only means that you must care and value yourself before you bestow this gift on others. Tolerance and kindness then flow naturally and loving your neighbour as yourself becomes easy because it is but second nature for you.