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Love Your Neighbour As Yourself?

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Growing up as a Christian in a Christian home, one was always going to hear a lot of sayings, biblical texts, quotes and teachings that promoted the religion’s doctrines. I believe it was in that family contextual environment of the Christian religion did I stumble on one of its core foundational guides: Love your neighbour as you love yourself. One of those eternal sentences epitomising the major ideologies of Jesus Christ as he went back and forth with the two major political adversaries of his time: the Pharisees and Sadducees.

In our native Abiriba language, my paternal grandmother would always remind us of this eternal creed by translating its essence to something more tangible, relatable and even identifiable. When either of my siblings had something which the other person—perhaps for whatever reason, which was extremely rare still—didn’t have, she would throw in such constant statements like “nitu nwaneu,” meaning “share with your sibling.” Or “oji ife agwuagwu nitu nwane ya,” that is “whoever has something which won’t last forever should share with his sibling.”

So, “love your neighbour as you love yourself” was no longer just about words, neither was it entrenched in simplistic notion of verbosity. But in character. In action. In showcasing its far-reaching values and meanings. It had transcended the peripheral to uphold a system of family relations worthy of adulation, merit, and at once promoting solidarity, support, love, true friendship and an unending knowledge that at whatever time and place, the love of family would always come through no matter the turbulence of personal disagreements and fallouts.

But that was within the context of having a “neighbour” as an object of such meritorious, even Samaritanian gesture. So, in this, hinged upon recent observations and a keen rumination to me, it seems to suggest there occurs a fallacious—if you will excuse my diction at this present time—assumption to this millennia-long wholeheartedly repeated mantra, even without sincere thought.

“Love your neighbour as your love yourself” draws a conclusion that is far from conclusive based on recent happenings in the world today. It somehow erroneously assumes that everyone loves themselves already, even though that’s as false as anything proven to be so can be. More people are currently disgruntled, hateful, and resentful of the bodies they live in than we can possibly quantify in numerical forms. Augmentation is the biggest market of conscious physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong: I make this statement without prejudice or condemnation to the idea of enhancement. I’m only in a struggle to fit its essence within the context of “loving your neighbour as you love yourself.” The rate at which personal vendettas, breaches in trust and friendships have skyrocketed leave little to be admired. Even in national settings, socio-political conflicts have exacerbated fragile diplomatic relations and forced a pattern of questioning to be acknowledged: we may not be loving ourselves well enough to be able to transfer its remainder or equal worth to our neighbours.

How have I been able to decipher this anomaly? Perhaps it stems from the recent awareness to my spirituality and my denouncement of the Christian faith to see that it couldn’t be true as we had previously believed without questioning its validity.

Do we really love ourselves more than our neighbours? Let’s start from detaching the option of comparison attached to the statement to fully understand my struggle with this text.

Do we love ourselves?

How many times have you heard or seen people say “I hate myself” only to catch themselves abruptly and try to remedy the situation by putting up the damage control mechanism of “don’t mind me,” or “I was only thinking out loud,” or the other one, “just kidding?” How many times have you found discontentment in the shape of your eyes or thought of having someone else’s type of dentition; thus ruining personal joy and inner peace?

You see, loving yourself is a conscious effort that must be constantly checkmated, considering the barrage of messages from the media about the “perfect” look, overtime, there often comes from such, a feeling of inadequacy.
You are forced—through sophisticated indoctrinations—to live a certain way, dress a certain way, look a certain way, just to feel accepted by a society which has falsely patterned its linear projection through a certain narrative.

Therefore, I think the original biblical text—and its subsequent translations over centuries—should have read “love yourself as you love your neighbour.” That way, when you hate on your neighbour, there would be a subconscious awareness that you’re hating yourself already without the erroneous presumptuous assumption of an already-made self-love.

So, I say to you today: love yourself as you love your neighbour!

To engage me, follow on Facebook @ Eleanya Ndukwe, Jr.


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