About the concept of love
One of the strongest and most powerful feelings that exists on earth is love. I imagine that, if we asked 100 people what the word “love” means, we could find different definitions, but all around positive feelings such as affection, containment, warmth, brotherhood, friendship, respect, mutual support, benevolence, solidarity, self-expression, reciprocity, feeling of security etc.
It is natural that this is so, because love does not have a single way of being, it can be built and represented in multiple ways and forms depending on the bonds that we build throughout our lives. However, I feel that when we talk about love, we rarely focus on ourselves, on “self-love.” In this 15 be Av then, I would like to analyze one of the best-known phrases in relation to the concept of love and then rethink our role as educators in the Tnua.
On the relationship between self-love and love of others: “Love your neighbor as yourself”
I must confess that this phrase always caused me many doubts. I believe that the base of this sensation is in the deep contradiction that exists between the apparent universality of the phrase (calling to love the other as we love ourselves) and the evident uniqueness of what this means for each one. That is to say, when a person respects himself, takes care of himself, pampers himself, defends himself and protects himself from harmful things, it is clear that “loving your neighbor as yourself” is a positive thing for anyone around you.
But what about all those who don’t love themselves? What about those who despise, nullify, criticize themselves in a destructive and compulsive way, boycott, speak and think badly about themselves (with themselves and with others) or expose themselves to hostile or toxic situations (consciously or unconsciously)? Can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself first?
Like everything in life … I suppose there is a continuity. On the one hand, at one extreme, we can find narcissistic beings, who love themselves so much that it is impossible for them to contemplate the option of loving someone else. Somewhere in between, there are people who have no self-esteem, but still manage to love others. These people, in fact, seem to love in a big way, “love double”, because they give the entire ration of self-love to others, together with the ration of “love of neighbor”. And finally, at the other extreme, those who not only do not love themselves, but also fail to love others, and even enjoy their pain. Both one extreme and the other, we see radical and non-normative cases, but they can be real.
What happens is that we have learned over time that it is expected and even acceptable to talk about our limitations, defects, weaknesses in public, but not about our strengths and positive things. Those who highlight their positive qualities will quickly be classified as self-centered and narcissistic, which is why it is doubly difficult for us to value what is good in us.
Added to this, there are the parameters of beauty, success and happiness that society has imposed on us as unique and true and that put us in a situation of constant evaluation regarding what we are, and how much we are worth, especially when the gap between social expectations and the reality is very wide. And to all this set of ideas, there is also the popular expectation that those who love honestly do not expect to receive anything in return. They do it altruistically, or in terms of this chag, “for free”. But in the end, the truth is that every normative person needs and wants to feel loved, wanted, sought, respected, needed, and when this does not happen, the feeling of heartbreak is so terrible, that it leads one to believe that all the negative presumptions that had of itself are true. Conclusion: if they don’t love me, it’s because “I don’t deserve to receive that love and no other.”
Every human being deserves to be cared for. But if there is something that we must learn and, above all, teach our Chanichim and Chanichot from an early age, it is that our first and main source of love must be ourselves.
In order to give love, we first need to create it in our hearts. That process necessarily involves connecting with ourselves. Accept and value ourselves. To recognize in us the wonderful things that we have, and we are able to share with the rest of the world. Loving ourselves means being kind, respectful, generous, compassionate, empathetic, patient, loyal, fair, benevolent and in solidarity with ourselves, in the same way that we are with others.
Yes. It sounds simple, but in practice it is not so much. But we have an advantage, we are educators who believe in education. Therefore, we understand that “loving yourself” can be learned and therefore taught. We just need a quota of will and the people and space indicated around us to give this a chance.
The role of the Tnua in the formation of positive self-esteem in their chaverim
Since we were little kids, we have been related to the environment: our family members, our home, and little by little this circle of reference is expanding as we encourage ourselves and are able to discover more about people and the environment around us.
In this interaction we are forming an image of who we are (“self-concept”). In other words, based on the feedback we receive from our environment, we put together a “photograph” of who we are and, therefore, how we should behave. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is the assessment we make of that photo: if I like it, I will have high self-esteem and if not, my self-esteem is probably low.
Contributing in the process of strengthening the positive self-esteem of our Chanichim from an early age is an extremely important task, since this is what will allow them, in adolescence and adulthood, to avoid risky situations in the attempt that others will value and admire them. In this sense, I believe that our task as educators is essential. Firstly, since our Chanichim consider us significant and exemplary figures, our words take on an impressive weight for each of the people who are part of our kvutzot. Genuinely highlighting the positive qualities that we see in our chanichim and janijot can go a long way in building a positive self-concept.
Secondly, in the Tnua we tend to pay close attention to group dynamics, where acts of bullying, discrimination or loss of self-control that results in violence, have no place. This position that we have taken, of assuming responsibility for what happens within our groups, is not evident, it is not the norm in other educational structures, but it is correct. By doing so, we contribute not only to our Chanichim learning to identify their own emotions, knowing how to control them, and receiving positive feedback from authority figures within the Tnua, but also receiving it from their own peers.
Third, the Tnua is an educational structure that embraces the concept of moratorium. That is, in Tnua it is possible to explore the world, try, try to achieve our goals, without paying a price in real life for our mistakes (as long as we have acted responsibly). This detail may seem trivial, but when we manage to meet our objectives, our self-concept is strengthened and therefore also our self-esteem. Beyond that, we encourage teamwork, with which, many times the process of “learning through doing” happens in the company of others who tend to share the same interest and who, with patience, are willing to share and teach their abilities, skills and knowledge, until this person acquires enough confidence and expertise to be the one to lead the process again with those who come after them.
When an educational structure educates based on the moratorium, then there is no constant criticism of the mistake, there is no failure: there is an opportunity to learn and improve. There is a process. There is acceptance and creativity to think of new, different, better, more relevant ways to achieve our goals. This also contributes to the self-concept and self-esteem of both chanichim and chanichot as well as all the chaverim and chaverot that are part of our Tzevet.
In other words, and although it sounds a bit paradoxical, to learn to love ourselves, we need to surround ourselves with people who love us too. People who give us positive feedback on our successes, on our strengths, on our advantages and on our strengths, and at the same time, ready to help us in our process of improving those aspects that we still need to change. We need people around us who make us feel that we are worth: worth the time, resources, energy, worth the love without expecting something in return. We need people who are not frightened by our missteps and mistakes, but reach out to help us up and encourage us to try again. We need people who see our potential in us and, even if we don’t know it, give us opportunities to learn and realize it in real life. We need people to tell us that it’s okay for us to love ourselves and even teach us how to do it.
If you ask me, I believe that all children and teenagers should be part of a Tnua. Because there will be this kind of people waiting for them. Some of these people may be called magicians, geniuses, or superheroes… I have a word that encompasses all that and much more. To these people, I call madrichim and madrichot.