“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” – St. Teresa of Avila
If you haven’t been living under a rock in recent years, you are most likely aware that the suicide rates around the world have been rising steadily since about 2001 and the rate of increase for children is absolutely startling!! Recently, my husband and I took a group of teens to a FOCUS conference at which several of the speakers repeated the theme that we are worthy of being loved. I was a bit surprised because the thought of not being worthy of love had never even entered my mind. Even more surprising was that during follow up conversations with the students, we learned that often, for many teens, the sole barometer or most trusted calculation of their worth is the feedback they receive from social media. What? Their worth, or lack thereof, on any given day was determined by whether a friend or group of friends had hit the like button in response to a picture or story they had posted?
I spent the next year having numerous conversations about the shocking revelation that there are multitudes of people who feel unworthy of love! I discovered that these harmful feelings weren't limited to teens but that people of all ages struggled with feeling unworthy of love. Several of them had revealed emotional scars from their childhood that impacted them well into their adult years. This struggle is undoubtedly widespread.
If I communicate anything in this post, I want to be clear that no matter who you are or what happens in your life, YOU ARE WORTHY OF BEING LOVED! Jesus Christ suffered and died for you and would have suffered for you even if you were the only person in existence! So, you are truly worth more than life itself! You are a son or daughter of God, immensely deserving of God’s love and the love of others. It’s only our perception of how much God loves us that changes from time to time, but God’s love never changes! Even when we fall into serious sin, God’s love for us continues unconditionally. It is often our openness to receiving or accepting God’s love that varies. Just like in the story of the prodigal son, Our heavenly Father will welcome us back with open arms at any point in time!
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” - St. Teresa of Calcutta
We are in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness! It’s time to take some action! If you struggle with social media, you might need to take some drastic measures. If you find it is controlling your life and emotions, you may want to try limiting it or doing without it. Try taking a break for a week, a month, or a year. See how your life has changed. True friendship needs strong connections (and I’m not just talking about wi-fi). To cultivate authentic friendships, we need to actually spend time with people. So, join a group, seek a shared experience, make the call, create a plan, be a true friend, make a memory! You will feel much more uplifted and energized than if you learn about your friends through an electronic device. And if you strike out with the first few people you try to connect with, try again! Sometimes we can write people off before we even know them. We might assume that they may not be interested in a friendship or assume that we may not be enriched by friendship with them. It’s good to approach friendships with the thought that God gave each of us amazing gifts that we can offer to our friends in a way that only we can give, as they give to us. We need each other more than we often realize. I am immeasurably grateful for how much I have learned about life and love from my friends and family!
“If in the course of his life a man never spoke ill of his fellow man, I would consider him a saint. Say nothing of an absent brother that you would not wish to say in his presence.” - St. Mary Magdalene de Pazi
One of the most destructive aspects of friendships is gossip! Social media breeds gossip in a unique and impersonal way but we also need to be careful when speaking directly to family members and friends! Just as we ourselves are tremendously loved by God, we have an obligation to protect the good name of others as they are also sons and daughters of God. If you have any concerns about whether or not to share something, it’s good to ask yourself questions like: Is this accurate information? Is this necessary information for people to know? Am I protecting this person’s dignity as a child of God? As St. Teresa of Calcutta put it, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them!”
As a culture, we are continually informed about how to protect ourselves! Car seats, seat belts, vitamins, nutrition, bicycle safety, computer virus protection, skin care, hair care, air quality, and vaccines, to name a few. But how often do we protect our sense of self worth? Our friendships? Our relationships? How often do we protect ourselves mentally and spiritually? How often do we remind ourselves that we are children of God and as such are immensely worthy of love?
Despite Mother Teresa’s fifty year drought of spiritual consolation, she, no doubt, was keenly aware of how much she was loved by God. As she loved and cared for the poor and suffering in Calcutta that others had completely rejected, she continually taught us by word and example about God’s love for us and the sacredness of the human person and the soul!
“To love another person is to see the face of God”- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables