It’s nice to get my house back in order again after being displaced while it underwent some minor home improvements! Leaks plugged, cracks sealed, broken fence mended, maintenance repairs done and the house got a fresh coat of paint. Now it is presentable! And, now that I got that out of the way, I won’t be distracted by keeping house and can concentrate on writing again!
Back to fulfillment. Self-fulfillment is an aspect of loving yourself. All of Christianity is built on the two commandments that Jesus describes as the greatest: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22: 38-40, NIV)
Notice what Jesus says about loving your neighbour … as yourself! In other words, if we don’t love ourselves, we won’t be able to love our neighbour — we won’t be able to build good relationships. Fundamental to building good relationships is loving ourselves. When we love ourselves, we are self-fulfilled and confident of who we are and we reach out to others from a position of strength — confidence. It makes it easy for people to respond and even if the response is not quite what we expect, we can deal with it. We won’t hightail out of the relationship. We persevere in confidence, like a parent perseveres with a straying child. And, as we pray and act in faith, we find a way to get through. We treat ourselves that way, so it becomes second nature to treat others likewise.
How do we become self-fulfilled? That is entirely up to the individual. Each person is fulfilled in his or her own way. I may find fulfillment writing in the comforts of my home. Another may enjoy a drink out with company and so on. Each has to explore the available possibilities before them to discover what is self-affirming. As adults, while it is greatly encouraging when others affirm us, we can’t constantly define ourselves by their affirmations. When we do that we are truly affirming them rather than us. We need to find our own ways to affirm ourselves so that even when we don’t get a pat on the back we hold our own because we know who we are.
Having said that, I must stress here that personal fulfillment isn’t self-indulgence. The immature indulge — like children. If they want ice cream, children will ask, nag, whine or cry until they get it. The mature don’t indulge; they assume responsibility for what they want and from trial and error — experience — we know when to let go and when to hold on. If we find fulfillment in the company of friends, we would spend a fair amount of time with them. But, as adults, we will know when to cut back on “friend-time” when other priorities call for our attention.
From my observation of the people around me, fulfilled people generally have better self-esteem. They have self-respect and know where and when to draw the line between considering others and being at their mercy. Self-respect determines how much of “crap” we can take. Taking crap is one of the realities of life. We have to take it — up to a point. That point is reached when we can say, “Enough! I’m not taking this anymore!” And, we find a way out or put a stop to it.
A fulfilled person, being confident and self-respecting, may sometimes be inconsiderate of others while seeking his or her fulfillment. We need to constantly check ourselves so that we are always loving others as ourselves. As long as we assume responsibility for our actions, we can learn from our mistakes, make amends and go on managing the fine balance of loving ourselves and others.