A social worker in New York City received a letter from a rich society woman who wanted to help him with a rehabilitation center he was starting in East Harlem. The woman talked a lot about herself and her shortcomings and said she hoped he would accept her as a volunteer worker in spite of all that. The social worker wrote back and said,

”Dear Madam. Your truly magnificent shortcomings at the present time are far too great. Nothing could prevent you from imposing them on unsuspecting victims of your humility. I advise that you love yourself more before you squander any love on anybody else.”

Good advice! And deeply grounded, I think, in New Testament teaching. There is a time to say to a person, “Forget yourself, get out there and love your brothers and sisters” — but not until the person has to some degree been confronted by a decent image of himself or herself.

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