“There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this the the wellspring within the heart. Through their need for love, people who lead solitary lives often stumble upon this great fountain. They learn to whisper awake the deep well of love within. This is not a question of forcing yourself to love yourself. It is more a question of exercising reserve, of inviting the wellspring of love that is, after all, your deepest nature to flow through your life. When this happens, the ground that has hardened within you grows soft again. Through a lack of love everything hardens. There is nothing as lonely in the world as that which has hardened or grown cold. Bitterness and coldness are the ultimate defeat.” – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
The reason why so many people dread being alone is that they haven’t yet discovered the “enriching fountain of love” within them. This fountain, or wellspring as it is occasionally called, is present within the heart of each and every person on earth, but mere intellectual knowledge of its presence is necessary, but not sufficient to “whisper it awake.”
There are those who don’t fundamentally love themselves, but who at the same time, claim to love God. This is impossible. You cannot love God but hate His crowning creation. To love God you must first learn to appreciate, if not love yourself. To love others you must first love God.
The mean of hubris and false humility is self-love. It is a balanced state, the point at which you exercise “reserve” as O’Donohue put it so eloquently. It is a state of being which allows for more effective and efficient achievement. It is the recognition of the shape of your soul, a profound awareness of the divinity within you.
Unlike a slab of meat, you cannot pound your heart to make it softer. Beating yourself up may temporarily assuage the sense of shame and guilt of not loving yourself and God, but such an approach only provides temporary relief from the suffering and loneliness which thrive in the absence of love. Your heart is softened by the flow of love, by the experience of love and by the expression of love.
The “deep well of love within” is always available to you, whether you choose to drink of its waters or not. The question you must ask yourself, I suppose is this: “Am I ready to give up the quick and temporary fixes and the occasional indulgence in self-loathing, be they ever so subtle, so that I can be sufficiently still and yielded the love that is within me?”
The answer, dear readers, is up to you. No one can force you to love yourself. And your love for others, including God is limited to the degree that you hold out on this point. Answer wisely!