The Healing Power of Love
“You must hate yourself.” That was the first sentence out of the mouth of the priest who was teaching us how much God loves us, or at least teaching Religion, on the first day of class my sophomore year of high school.
His next words were, “I realize everyone says you’re supposed to love yourself, but if you want to change, you have to hate what you want to change.” Sadly, I believed him. For a long time.
Sure, I had already spent my impressionable years in religious schools and in some hectic life situations that supported that belief in the Power of Hate, so it’s natural I would easily trip down that logic hole.
What is also natural is the ensuing years of self abuse that kept me in a whirl of ill physical and emotional health. The tension that comes from hate, be it internal or external, does not promote the flow of health and happiness one hopes spiritual practice would engender!
I have to admit, though, that I am incredibly grateful for those dark years. In all the time I was into self flagellation for the sake of God Loving Me Best, I did all sorts of charitable work while sneaking my rage out in some pretty bizarre ways. Why am I grateful for that, you may ask? Because it left me no question about the need to heal.
When I did take up the mantle of healing myself, in the beginning, it did smack of Original Sin trying to shape itself up with power tools. After some time, though, I fairly stumbled into Chi Nei Tsang, an ancient to the world, new to me and most of the West, healing technique whose power lies in pure, unconditional, love and acceptance of ourselves.
My Chi Nei Tsang teacher, Gilles Marin, famously said, “There is no intelligence required for healing. To heal, we don’t need to be intelligent, we don’t need to be good, and we don’t need to deserve it. Healing is pure grace. To heal, we do need honesty. We need to be true to ourselves. We need to be able to admit that we have feelings we wish we didn’t have. We need to own these feelings so we can outgrow them, and so we can mature as human beings.”
You know what you have to have in order to be honest with yourself and allow grace to transform? Love. Love shines a warm, gentle light so we can face ourselves mercifully and unflinchingly in order to digest the feelings that can hide in the dark. Love is where the wisdom of change resides.
It started slow, I have to be unflinchingly honest. The physical and emotional pain from all those years of the opposite was pretty convincing. But when I realized the ember had caught, there was no turning back the flame.
A funny thing about love is that it allowed me to see the hate festering in me. And love myself through it. And find the faith to be able to live beyond the path my history would have defined for me. And heal my body of conditions it wasn’t supposed to heal from. And be able to give love freely, in the way Jesus would have wanted. Like my religious training told me I was supposed to do.
Father Acrea, wherever you are, in whatever dimension you’re exploring, I hope someone was able to love you into loving yourself into change. Love really is the agent of change.