Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Authentic Love- The Therese Way

There is a difference between self esteem and self love. Authentic self esteem is to see oneself as we truly are, nothing. It is also to give merit where it belongs, to God. It is the knowledge that we are not the Source of Love, God is. We are able to love only if we empty ourselves of vainglories and accept our humble state.

Self love on the other hand accepts all praise as if it were merited and gives no credit to God. There are many faces of self love, the most glaring is the need to be the centre of attention whether it be by showing off or the need of approbation from others. Self love is distorted love in that the person either thinks too highly of itself or it thinks of itself as too lowly. Both have the same meaning the focus remains on themselves.

When a persons conversation becomes full of 'I' 'ME' 'MY', that is a sure sign of too much self love and not enough self forgetting. Another sign of self love is the inability to accept criticism and perceives constructive criticism as a personal attack.

That wonderful Saint, Therese also recognised this when she was cautioned about speaking the truth to a fellow Sister, here is what Therese said, "If I'm not loved, that's just too bad! I tell the truth and if anyone does not want to know it, let her not come looking for me." Therese was disciplined and did not seek or need the admiration on the part of the novices.

We sometimes misunderstand Therese in our need to turn her into a nice girl who ran around throwing roses. Do we believe this myth because it makes it easier to love her? Or do we believe the myth because it means we do not have to leave our comfort zone?

Yet this most August Saint encourages us to go beyond our limits. To seek nothing for itself but to give of oneself generously but not out of self conceit. All of Therese's focus was on God and God alone and it was God she loved to her utmost being.

Therese is not a comfortable Saint. Can we live her little Way? A Way that seeks to empty ourselves of all Ego? That puts itself last and allows itself to be forgotten to become..nothing in the scheme of things. Can we do this?

We know Therese through her book which her Mother Superior insisted she write, but what of the soul who does not receive this commission are you ready to be unknown, misunderstood and loved only by God?

Therese was a woman of immense strength which had little to do with throwing flowers and smiling sweetly. This was a woman of steel who endured the 'dark night of the soul' who at times in the midst of her own passion had suicidal thoughts. Does that fact make you uncomfortable? It shouldnt. It simply makes Therese human and fallible just like the rest of us.

If you love Saint Therese then love her for the right reasons and not the myths that have sugar coated her deep, intense & profound spirituality.

Therese shows us the difference between self love and authentic love.

The next time you are undergoing a crisis understand one thing, are you making your 'feelings' your priority? Or do you Trust God enough to let go of your need to control yourself and those around you?

If you are suffering do you suffer in silence or do you alert those around you and almost the entire world about what you are enduring?

Therese possessed a crystal purity of the true meaning of suffering and embraced it even as her heart trembled at what lay ahead of her. This young woman lived with fear as the night closed around her and her senses fell in the abyss of negation.

The great lesson of Therese is she loved God for who He is and not for what He had given her or would give her.

Therese loved God more than she loved herself. That is authentic Love.