Greenleaf writes: Seeking begins, I believe, with a genuine love of self (without which one cannot really love one’s neighbor), with a high value on one’s own uniqueness, and with a sense of greatness in one’s own life experience and purpose.
How does one know that one has a ‘genuine love of self’? What does a ‘genuine love of self’ look like, sound like, or feel like (to the ‘self’ and to the other)? The dictionary is not helpful when it comes to defining ‘love for self.’ This comes close, I think: ‘A deep emotional regard for self.’ If I do not have a deep emotional regard for myself how am I able to have a deep emotional regard for the other? On the other hand, where is the line between ‘love of self’ and ego-centricity? Perhaps it resides in the idea that self-love is ‘complete’ only when one also loves one’s neighbor (think, ‘the other’).
‘Caring Ethicists’ would say that the one ‘loved’ must affirm/acknowledge being loved; if I say ‘I love you’ then only when you confirm that you experience my loving you does ‘love’ occur. Perhaps this is also true for ‘self-love.’ I must affirm that I do, in fact, love myself; I actually engage in activities that demonstrate that I love myself and then I must confirm that I experience being loved as a result. There are some guidelines that might help us. Here is one guideline in the form of a question: ‘To what extent do I nurture more than deplete the four dimensions that contribute to my being a fully human being?’ In what ways do I consciously, intentionally, and purpose-fully nurture more than deplete my Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual dimensions?
Greenleaf provides us with another guideline: To what extent do I value (highly value) my ‘uniqueness’? How do I affirm my uniqueness? To what extent do I believe that I am ‘great’ for no other human being is called to live my life; to engage in my life experiences and to live out my life’s purpose – no one else can live my life. No one can live my life’s purpose. Do I believe that because I am unique that I have a purpose in life that no one else can address? If I do then perhaps this is another indicator of potential self-love. I write ‘potential self-love’ because unless I truly live my life as it I am unique and until I live my life with a ‘purpose’ then what exists is ‘potential’ – my ‘potential’ becomes ‘actual’ when I live into and out of my uniqueness and my life’s purpose. When I demonstrate self-love.