By Sheena Perron
Who is your neighbor? Some may answer this question with answers like this, “I don’t know his name, but his dog tramples down my flowers. His boy honks the horn and keeps me awake at night, and his children make so much noise I can’t enjoy life.” Do you ever feel like this about your neighbor? Or maybe you are THAT neighbor!
While ministering to men, Jesus Christ was asked by the lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Matthew records that Jesus responded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39 ). We have been taught that there is no “other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). What, or who, do you think of when you hear or read these words? You most likely have a list of people that immediately come to mind when you hear the word “neighbor”. The word neighbor refers to everyone, but there is one person that I think many of us may forget to include on our list of neighbors who we need to show love toward.
Have you ever stopped to think about what the Savior says in verse 39? He said, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). For many of us loving ourselves isn’t as easy as loving those around us. “In our modern world, we’re constantly flooded by the seemingly perfect lives of people on social media. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others and feel inadequate, but how many likes you get on Instagram does not dictate the way that God views your worth” (“How to Love Yourself Like God Loves You; Latter-day Saints Channel).
Loving ourselves is just as important as loving others. Our first step to beginning to love ourselves is to understand the way God loves you. The beloved primary song, ‘I am a Child of God’ reminds us of who we are. The Primary children sing this and are reminded of who they are often, but perhaps us older children have forgotten these wonderful words.
“You are the beloved son or daughter of Heavenly father, created ‘in his own image,’ and of immense value—so much that Jesus Christ gave His life for you. God the Father is merciful and has infinite love for you despite your faults. Only the voice of Satan will cause you to feel of no value. When you feel worthless, ‘remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.’ Refrain from repeatedly thinking or saying negative words about yourself—there is a clear difference between humility and humiliation. Identify and use your unique talents rather than dwelling on your weaknesses.” (The Great and Wonderful Love; Anthony D. Perkins; Nov. 2006).
Several years ago I was reading a Dr. Suess book to my daughter. The book included several short stories. There was one story in particular that really touched my heart. This story, although a children’s short story, includes an important lesson that each of us can learn from.
The Story of Gertrude McFuzz
This story from Dr. Suess is a story about Gertrude McFuzz and her sad droopy droop tail feather. Gertrude’s poor feather made her so very sad. She often felt even worse about herself when comparing her tail to another young bird, named Lolla-Lee-Lou, who had the most beautiful tail with two feathers. Anytime Gertrude saw Lolla-Lee-Lou flying by in the sky she would get very jealous. Gertrude just did not understand why she only had one droopy feather while Lolla-Lee-Lou had two.
Gertrude decided to visit her Uncle, who happened to be a doctor, and begged him for a pill that would help her tail grow. At first her uncle told her that she shouldn’t worry, her tail was just fine, but Gertrude became upset and started throwing tantrums until her uncle finally gave in and told her where she could find berries that would help her tail to grow.
She flew to the place that her uncle had said and found the vine with the berries. Gertrude excitedly ate a berry, and almost immediately a new feather grew. Then Gertrude got an idea. She would eat more berries to grow a tail that was better than Lolla-Lee-Lou.
Gertrude ate more and more berries, until they were all gone. Her tail was breathtaking, and she couldn’t wait to fly by Lolla-Lee-Lou. She spread her wings, ready to fly, but the weight of all her beautiful feathers made it impossible. Gertrude tried to yank and pull on her tail, but it wouldn’t budge. She was stuck on the hill!
Eventually her uncle, and other birds, came to her rescue. They had to pluck each of her new beautiful feathers in order for her to be able to fly home. The story ends with this, ““And, finally, when all of the pulling was done, Gertrude, behind her, again had just one…That one little feather she had as a starter. But now that’s enough, because now she is smarter” (Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Suess).
Do you compare yourself to others? Do you often fill your head with negative thoughts and doubts, focusing on your faults and weaknesses? When we do this we are allowing ourselves to lose sight of who we are. When we do this we make it difficult to not only love ourselves, but to love those around us. “We cannot allow ourselves to feel inadequate by focusing on who we aren’t instead of on who we are!” (Bonnie D. Parkin; Choosing Charity: That Good Part).
“Imagine knowing that someone you love feels incapable of loving themselves. Imagine feeling their despair, their grief, and loneliness. How desperately would you want to comfort them, to tell them that they’re important, special, loved? That’s how God feels about you. He earnestly wants you to understand your true worth—and by drawing closer to Him, by asking to feel His spirit, by understanding and celebrating your place in this world, you can begin to love yourself the way God loves you” (“How to Love Yourself Like God Loves You; Latter-day Saints Channel).
Love thy neighbor as THYSELF. Begin today to understand more fully who you are, a son or daughter of God. “To know that we are daughters or sons of God is to know our full potential in every sphere of mortal or eternal life. This knowledge means knowing that He loves each of us individually and cares deeply about the things that are important to us” (The Three Sides of Love; Ronnell Hugh; Aug. 2017).
God loves you. “He earnestly wants you to understand your true--worth and by drawing closer to Him, by asking to feel His spirit, by understanding and celebrating your place in this world, you can begin to love yourself the way God loves you (“How to Love Yourself Like God Loves You; Latter-day Saints Channel).Sheena Perron is the founder of Little LDS Ideas and Seek Christ Daily. Her mission is to help others become seekers of Christ through uplifting online content and events. She has been featured in the Ensign, Deseret News, and KSL Radio. Follow Sheena Perron on Instagram and Facebook