Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Mirror, mirror, chalk pastel, by Tobias Mayer, 2023

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
2 Timothy 3:1-5

Are we heading towards the last days? It sometimes feels that way. These are certainly perilous (or distressing1) times. An interesting question would be, did our self-love precede these perilous times, or is it a result thereof? My firm belief is in the former. Self-love has been the ruination of our societies. We know that, because it is cynically big business these days to teach self-love. We even see it now in the corporate world, with their lunchtime and evening2 workshops on how to love yourself. What used to be thought of in negative, right-sizing terms such as conceit, pomposity, ego-centricity or vaingloriousness,3 has more recently—and quite suddenly—become positive and uplifting. This is good, you might think. Think again. It is not for nothing that Paul4 places lovers of their own selves ahead of all the other sins/misbehaviours in the list.

You can't love someone else until you love yourself, we've been taught—or we've been tricked. Of course you can. All you need is a modicum of kindness, and the ability to listen. This requires absolutely zero self-indulgence, or self-whatever. In the age of psychoanalysis we've been tricked into thinking that happiness lies on the journey into self. It does not. That way leads to self-obsession, dwelling on the past, and consequent depression and misery. We'd all do well to take a journey out of ourselves, towards the other. In these times, perhaps more than any other time, we are called to listen to the other, the weirdo, the politically wrong, the ignorant, the stupid...the enemy. How do we know that we are thus called? Because those people are everywhere. Just pay attention. Why do you encounter so many people who disagree with you? Because you are being called, called to step up, to listen for once, to learn, and ultimately to heal, to heal both self and more importantly, society. It is in your hands. And mine. Let us rise to the occasion.5

1 NRSV translation
2 Making sure it is done in the employee's time, not the employer's
3 Take a look at the 50 or so synonyms for self-love on Not one of them offers a positive take on the concept. Not one.
4 ...or whoever wrote this letter
5 An updated version of this reflection can be read here: Perilous Times, 24/11/2023