I have always been puzzled by the Western individualistic notion that you can’t truly love or be loved by others until you love yourself. I see it as similar to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that allows so many people to deny the plight of their neighbors by blaming those who are hurting, rather than those who hurt.
I don’t believe it’s possible to love yourself without being loved. Our relationships with others are what make life both survivable and meaningful. Community, friendship, family (whether chosen or blood) — these relationships are often culturally perceived as secondary to romantic love, to capital “r” Relationships.
As Jews, we know the significance of community. Intergenerational trauma has granted me an implicit understanding that at the end of the day, community is all we have. As a gay and transgender person, my community and found family are similarly profound and integral to survival. As someone with mental illness, empathy and understanding from others with shared experiences allows me to move forward and heal.
Relationships facilitate growth; for who can love themselves without the foundation of love and support from others? Who can learn, change, and find themselves without being pushed to do so through our interactions with others? We need each other, need community, need to love and be loved in order to become ourselves.
In times like these, when so much hatred and systemic oppression runs rampant across the world, we have an obligation to each other: to look out for our neighbors (those like us, and especially those who are vulnerable and not like us) to treat each other with compassion, and to foster relationships that allow us to become better versions of ourselves, as well as help those around us to do the same.
Roswell is a remote Beth El-ian who grew up in Charlotte (and the congregation) and now lives in Ithaca, NY. Their hobbies include cooking with friends, hanging out with their cat Emet, watching The X-Files for the 800th time, and s’mores.