Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"you shall love your neighbor as yourself" -- Lev. 19:18

Perhaps, one of the most striking applications of the dominion - humility connection in our daily lives is in love and marriage.  Very often, each member of a couple is looking for someone to fill their needs.  If one, or both, does not respond to the needs of the other, this becomes a narcissistic arrangement.  The relationship becomes a competition for attention.  The usual outcome is the loss of love and the destruction of the relationship.  This is a living example of dominion taken to the extreme.

It is true that most of us have needs that require the help of others.  It is not the needs that are at issue.  It is a matter of how those needs are satisfied.

Someone once defined love as when the well-being of the one you love is as important as your own well-being.  However, this presumes that this applies to both members in the relationship.  That is, it is a reciprocal relationship.

Now let us look at "you shall love your neighbor as yourself".  Note that this is a conditional statement.  It is not love your neighbor.  It requires that you shall love your neighbor as   yourself. 

The word love has many meanings in our culture.  With regards to the biblical intent of the commandment, let us equate the word love with the word respect.  This definition is consistent with every commandment in the Torah.  It is the essential requirement for every relationship, both between people and people and God.

The implication of the commandment is profound.  It was given to an entire community.  It applies equally to every member of the community.  It requires reciprocity on the part of every member of the community.  This reciprocity is demonstrated with acts of respect and gratitude.  Furthermore, it recognizes that you cannot respect others unless you respect yourself.  This places an obligation on the community to ensure that all members of the community respect themselves, no matter what their status.

A marriage is a community of two.  The first step toward a loving relationship is that both members must know themselves.  To know yourself is to know both your strengths and your weaknesses.  It is not narcissistic self-love.  Rather, it is the ability to sustain the balance between dominion and humility within yourself.  If you can see yourself as you really are, then you can remove the barriers and self-illusions, and see others as they are.  A person who achieves this balance can then respect him or herself and respect others for who they are. 

The first step makes it possible for you to see the other person for who he/she really is, not who you want her/him to be.  You will be living with that real person.  The next step is for each person to discover who the other person is.  Strangely, it is separation that makes true intimacy possible.  No person can be who you want him or her to be because each of us is unique.  The real purpose of a good relationship is complementarity.  It is an intimate union in which two basically different people achieve greater self-respect because of their differences.  In this way, each can grow. 

The result of this is gratitude that the other person is exactly who they are at any given time in the relationship.  The mystery is that by appreciating another you learn to appreciate yourself. This is love!  Sadly, so many relationships are growth limiting.

This might seem complex, but at the level of real application, it can be very simple.  Consider a couple who are similar in some ways and quite different in others.  Very early, they set a simple rule for their marriage: "if it bothers you, you do it".  For example, she cannot tolerate a dirty bathroom.  Being a male, his definition of a dirty bathroom is different from hers. If he does not clean his bathroom according to her expectations, she cleans it herself.  Not a word is exchanged until he thanks her.  On the other hand, he cannot stand to have dirty dishes sitting around after a meal.  She is satisfied to leave dishes until there is enough to fill the dishwasher.  Then he washes the dishes most of the time, and she thanks him.  This might seem amusing, but this simple exercise is very important to their appreciation of each other.  They never have reason to say, "I wish you were..."  They are always saying "thank-you for being you".  It results in constantly growing gratitude for each other and their own continuing growth.

Original content copyright © Secular Kabbalist

No comments:

Post a Comment