Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Love. Thy Neighbor.
Hi there, neighbor!
I know what this looks like. And what it sounds like. But it’s not that. I promise.
Unless you think it’s about loving my neighbor. In which case, then it’s exactly what it looks like. But I promise I won’t break out into Flanders. Absolutely no neighborinos. Except for that one.
I’m a good neighbor. I keep to myself. I’m quiet. I clean. I even bake food with lovely aromas. And I never bang on walls or leave dog poo on the side walk or host loud obnoxious parties. And I try to be friendly. In my very shy, don’t-look-at-me kind of way.
But before you sign up to move in next to me, you should know I’m terrible at loving my neighbor. No joke. Not a loving neighbor.
I remember this commandment from my early catechism classes: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” But who are my neighbors? Are they just the people in my apartment? Because I don’t think most of the people in my apartment complex are too interested in my neighborliness. Perhaps they would rather be invisible. I know I’d often rather be invisible.
Love thy neighbor - especially if they’re invisible?
Recently, I’ve been sharing food with my “neighbors” in the apartment management office. The truth is, I make too much food for Boyfriend Javelin and I. Way too much. As in, my chest freezer is almost full again and if I don’t give food away, I’ll bloat out like a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. And no one needs to see me like that. I don’t need to see me like that.
So recently I’ve been hoofing boxes of food over to the management office. I just drop by the office and hand them food. The first couple of times, I think they were shocked. Maybe a little scared. Who’s the crazy person giving us food? And what does he want in exchange?
A couple weeks ago, I shared a batch of baked beans and cornbread I was testing. And before that, some caramel sauce with apples. And before that, cookies. That’s loving, right? They seem to enjoy it and I’m glad to be rid of it! But is it love - to drop off unwanted food that would otherwise turn me into a Macy’s Day Parade balloon?
Love thy neighbor - as long as it benefits ME?
Then if pretending neighbors are invisible and dropping off unwanted food isn’t really love, then what about doing no harm? I mean, I know I’ve never poisoned anyone. Badly. I would never physically hurt someone if I could avoid it. I’ve never so much as even punched someone. Ever.
I don’t even lift a finger when it sounds like a herd of elephants is about to slam through the apartment wall - over and over and over and over again. I don’t punch my neighbor or call out nasty names or even call the police. So can that be love? Or is it just malicious resentment restrained by cowardice?
Love thy neighbor - and secretly plot vicious schemes to get some back?
So if I can’t beat up my neighbor and I can’t THINK about beating up my neighbor, can I still argue? I recently got into a really heated discussion about gun control with a friend on Facebook. A friend I’ve known for a while. I’m not sure if a friend is exactly the same as a neighbor in the traditional use of the word, but I suspect the concept is still the same. Or at least I’m using it that way here. Anyway, this “neighbor” friend feels strongly about the right to own and use guns. Being my obstinate and passionate self, you can imagine the conversation that ensued once I brazenly shared the following image on Facebook.
It’s my right to share that image. Freedom of speech of all. But is it love? Does stuff like this come from a place of love?
I love my friends. But I still sometimes argue with them. And I feel passionately opposed to certain things. Like guns. And the ease of access to guns. And this obsession with the right to own a gun. But let’s NOT go there. Let’s keep this about love.
Love thy neighbor - but post manipulative memes to make sure I get my point across?
I could argue I was being loving by sharing the meme. I could even defend it logically. I might say, “My love for and desire to protect life motivates me to champion gun control.” But it’s only a half-truth. The other half is I really want to make sure others see how WRONG they are. Cause I’m right. And right should win. Right?
Or, I could just admit I wasn’t being loving. Or at least admit love wasn’t my ONLY motivation. What started out as something motivated by love, ended in a need to prove a point. Which isn’t love - that’s ego. [Isn’t it fun watching me trip up over myself figuring this out?] Love, love, love - you’re such a tricky thing!
Love thy neighbor as thyself - as long as we both agree I’m RIGHT?
I don’t know why being right is so important to me. Or not being wrong is so important. Because without love, what does being RIGHT matter? "Oh good, I proved I’m right! Now I can clutch that close while remembering the nasty way I proved my point." And, "Oh good - he finally admitted he’s wrong! Now I can stop torturing him and scrounge up some love." See what I mean? Victory is worthless - love is the prize.
So why do I keep tripping up on loving my neighbor? This isn’t complicated. Do things out of love. Don’t do anything that doesn’t start with love. Stop when it’s no longer love. That’s it. Love. Thy. Neighbor.
Well, there’s also one other wee little thing. I’ve got tune out that really, loud, obnoxious part of myself that’s SCREAMING at me to NOT BE WRONG! To set the record straight! To get even. To fix their wagon.
Although, maybe fixing their wagon would be a really nice thing. Especially if it’s been broken for a while. That sounds pretty loving.
Love thy neighbor - and help fix their broken wagon? I think that works.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too. Good freaking luck living up to this! In a couple weeks (or a few hours), something is going to get the better of me. Maybe it will be posting that really witty political slam. Or retweeting that really funny but oh-so-demeaning joke. Or thinking some REALLY nasty thoughts about that terrible driver who makes me miss every green light for the three miles! Don't worry - you won’t have to wait long for me to slip up.
All I can do is repeat quietly to myself: Love. Thy neighbor.