We have heard these words many times, and they can feel like an insurmountable list of 'shoulds'.
However, I wonder what it would look like if, when we thought of ourselves we were "patient and kind to ourselves? What would it be like it we honoured ourselves, monitored when we were angry with ourselves and questioned about the real reasons for that anger, sought forgiveness from God and others and then kept no record of our own wrongs, rejoiced in truth, and were trusting, hoping, persevering?
I suspect that we give our children a great start if we can help our children to recognise the internal dialogues they have with and about themselves, and learn to interrupt negative thoughts with truths like
"Even though I feel sad, I know that God loves me, Mum loves me, my teacher loves me..."
"Right now I feel angry but I know this feeling will pass so I won't make decisions now or say things I will regret. I will take some time to think first."
"When I think about how I get into trouble for not listening, I feel discouraged. But I am going to pick myself up and celebrate each time I notice that I am listening."
When our own children were younger, I remember feeling exasperated when one of them was continuing to give in to a temptation of one sort or another (it might have been snatching toys from their sister or answering back). I hit upon a response that became quite helpful.
I would say something like, "You know that you are tempted to snatch from your sister and that that is not loving and kind but it is hard to stop yourself. I know it is hard to stop myself from saying or doing wrong things too. But God wants us to be loving and we need to learn to make good choices. So what I want you to do is to come and tell me when you have felt like snatching the toys, but you chose to do the opposite and use your words kindly. Then I can be really happy with you that you are growing up and making good choices." After that conversation I would keep an eye out for any attempt by the child to put a space between thought/feeling and action and encourage them.
The idea of accepting the challenges and temptations we have, knowing that everyone else has their own challenges as well, acknowledging the challenge, and celebrating our successes, small though they may be, seems so much more powerful in terms of changing our behaviour. This is a huge part of 'loving ourselves'. This kind of love is not boastful and proud, not puffing ourselves up to hide our insecurities. It is solidly based on reality - both the good and the bad.
Psychologists and educators around the world have found that it is once we are able to accept our ourselves that we become more able to get out of survival or defence mode, which results in attacking others, and to begin to give and love others. We are also more able to see God as a loving God. It is strange but true that our picture of others, God and the world is more often a reflection on our picture of ourselves, a response to a feeling deeper than our conscious mind may not even realise.
St John said, "My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us..."
Learning that God loves us, in spite of ourselves, and that our families and teachers and friends love us is crucial to learning to love others. It is wonderful to be able to create an environment in which we all learn together to love God, ourselves, and others. Wholesome, foundational, a disposition from which success of all other kinds can flow.