In the message of Jesus, loving others is inseparable from loving God. The ideal of loving others is not unique to Christianity. Buddhists are taught to have unselfish interest in others’ welfare. Bahá'ís are taught to love all even one’s enemies. Jews are taught about loving-kindness for all. Muslims are taught compassion for all. Jaina are taught to have benevolence for all. Non-religious humanists believe in being of service to all of humanity.
The notion of loving one’s neighbor came back to me recently and made me see that I had not seen its importance. I had accepted it as truth but had not seen what it truly means. Why is it such an important notion?
It takes an effort to love a neighbor who seems uncaring, selfish, judgmental, competitive, etc., etc. But let’s go to some extreme. What if my neighbor commits crimes? What if my neighbor is a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile? What if my neighbor flirts with my life partner? What if my neighbor introduces my kid to drugs? Then what does it mean to love my neighbor?
We are used to judging behaviors as good or bad. This is what our culture has taught us from infancy. But that isn’t helpful in understanding why circumstances happen as they do in our lives. And it does not help to heal our self, let alone the planet.
If a neighbor commits crimes, a more useful question is: What in me needs this experience in my life? This is the approach of Ho’oponopono. It is not an approach of self-judgment, or self-blame; it is an approach of taking responsibility, of not separating oneself from one’s experience. As a parent I know that if I feel stressed and ignore it, my children start acting out. Most parents then ask the children to calm down, but in truth, they would if only the parent who is anxious would start taking deep breaths!
So our neighbors teach us about our own state of mind. By loving our neighbors, as they are, and taking responsibility for our own state of mind and releasing its negative aspects in relation to these neighbors, with self-love and self-forgiveness, our neighbors either change or move away.
Dr. Hew Len, who was trained in the tradition of Ho’oponopono, says that he was originally trained to go out and help people, but then he realized that that doesn’t work: “What works ultimately, is when I realized that the world is within me, and that to change the world, I have to change it within myself.”
In the end, loving one’s neighbor helps heal our self, and our personal relationship with the universe. Loving one’s neighbor is an essential component toward enlightenment.