Love Begins at Home

What did Saint Mother Teresa mean when she said, “Love begins at home”? To me, the answer seems pretty obvious: love those within our immediate environment. But what about loving ourselves? And, is there more to it than just doing chores for our parents, favors for our siblings, or helping a friend with a school project?

I think the answer to that question is both yes and no. Yes, there is more to it than just acts of service, but also no because it doesn’t have to be complicated; the mission is simple: love.

But how?

As I reflected on my own journey to simply love those around me, I noticed a few people in particular where I had built barriers, whether intentionally or unintentionally. These barriers were preventing me from truly bringing the love of Christ into the relationship. Who were these people? I’ll be vulnerable a minute here: my mother, and myself.

At twenty-seven, you would think that I would have moved on from any “mommy issues” as popular culture teasingly calls it. But if I really think about it, I haven’t. My mother is one of the most amazing people I know; she’s incredibly generous, thoughtful and sweet, and she instilled in me the mantra, “love and kindness” from a young age. How could I have a barrier up against her?

As a species, humans tend to dwell on the negative rather than the positive. I don’t know the scientific (or spiritual) reason for this, but I do know that if my mother says one thousand nice things to me and one not-so-nice thing, I will remember that one negative comment forever and carry it to my grave: “Here lies Arie Reath, whose mother said she should not buy those unflattering jeans that one time.” To which she would counter, “If your mother can’t tell you these things, who can?” And you know what, she’s right. Even if it doesn’t feel great, telling the hard truth is a sign of true love.

So, is there someone you find difficult to love? Is there someone you need to forgive?
I invite you to do the following. Get a cup of tea, your prayer journal, and a pen. Ask yourself:

  • Who in my life do I find the most difficult to love?
  • Have I been withholding forgiveness? Why?
  • Write down at least 3 positive things about this person. They can be qualities, kind things     they’ve said, or thoughtful things they’ve done.
  • If nothing comes to mind, ask God over the next few days to remind you of any positive         memories you have of this person.
  • Write down your forgiveness affirmation. Here are some examples:
    • I forgive the actions of those I feel have wounded me.
    • I forgive myself for believing in old thought patterns.
    • I forgive myself for being imperfect like everybody else.
    • I allow myself to be forgiven.
    • I realize that my parents gave their best to me. I forgive them for any wrong that they unknowingly did to me.
    • I forgive myself for holding a grudge, if any, against my parents.
    • As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.
    • I am forgiving, loving, gentle and kind and am safe in the knowledge that God loves me.

And so, sweet sisters, as we learn to forgive our family members, friends, strangers, and even ourselves, we can truly begin to live out the mission set before us by Saint Mother Teresa, that love begins at home. “Home” is right here: in our own hearts.

Image via Lauren Herbeck