Posted on January 20th, 2016
Love Your Neighbor: Love Yourself
וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s a great text. We have likely all used it in teaching at least once in our career. Countless teens have used it for divrei Torah or in a speech lobbying on Capitol Hill during a L’Taken seminar. It’s inscribed on buildings and written above arks—it’s even inscribed on the façade of 838 Fifth Avenue, the original New York home of the Reform Movement. It’s even restated in the Christian Bible in the Book of Matthew, as one of the most important commandments.
It’s a great message of being kind to others and caring for those who are “other.” But I think it’s, perhaps, an even more powerful idea if we turn it around. Because, if we think about it, there are times when it is easier to love our neighbor than it is to love ourselves. This is true for all of us; I think it is even more true for our teens.
Every adolescent goes through periods of being unsure of themselves—uncomfortable with some aspect of their identity. For some this can be extreme, but even for those for whom it’s a passing thought, it’s important for us to teach them, again and again, that they should indeed love themselves as they love their neighbor.
In supporting the mental health of our teens, we must remind them of their worth—that they deserve to be kind to themselves. They should forgive in themselves that which they forgive in those around them. Each of them should give themselves the love they each deserve.