Frank Cook, a former armed robber and gangland enforcer, was imprisoned for over half his life. Whilst in solitary, he assaulted some members of staff, and was summoned to see the Medical Superintendent, Dr Gillet, who put his arm around his shoulders. Frank Cook burst into tears. Later, as a reformed figure, he was to write in his autobiography, “You can’t love yourself and go around hurting people. It doesn’t work like that. You hate yourself and that’s why you hate everything else.”
When Jesus is put on the spot by a Scribe who ask his opinion about the greatest of the commandments, Jesus chooses the one to love. But to love God is also inextricably tied up with our need to love one another. But, as Frank Cook’s life reminds us, one also needs to be able to love oneself. This is not a narcissistic love, an obsession with ourselves, but a need to know and accept that we are loved, and to be able to appreciate our own worth.
This can be difficult. Frank Cook’s life had been void of love and affection, and his own growing up years simply affirmed that the only way to be normal was to drink, use drugs and commit crime. His turning point came when he was shown affection and love, and so he could begin to discover, for the first time, his self worth. Each of us faces difficulties, and we are shaped by our past but we are also of infinite value, loved by God. So, be gentle on yourself today. Know that you are loved.
God our Father, help us to know that we are loved, and help us to love ourselves, so that we may love as we are loved. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.