Love is Gentle, Love is Kind

By Rebecca Radcliffe

Our bodies speak to us every time we look in our mirrors, but few of us ever hear them. So often we are too full of the messages we receive day in and day out: Be thin. Eat less. Curb your hunger. Lose your curves. Straighten out. Lighten up. Do it now.

The image that looks back at us from our mirrors may be wistful and worried. It wants to be loved, accepted, appreciated, and understood. It fears our judgment, dislike, and hatred. And right on cue, we deliver. We look at our curves and imperfections and feel inadequate. We compare our everyday, ordinary bodies to the thinly sculpted images that march across the pages of magazines and television screens, and we fail miserably. Depression sets in and takes over. We wonder why we never measure up.

Just once, our bodies would like to feel our gratitude. Every morning, they faithfully wake up even if we have not gotten enough sleep. They muster the energy to get us through the day—even if we spend time in smoky or polluted air, consume junky food, and don't get the right nutrients to fuel our lives very well.

Our marvelous bodies plow through our deadlines, pressure-packed days, and the surprises life throws at each of us. We may treat our bodies like they don't matter—but we forget that they can break down. It is easy to take our bodies for granted and think we have the right to belittle, mistreat, or harm them as we choose. Yet our bodies are the most sacred, stable, dependable, loving, unflinching, unfailing life partners we have.

Our human bodies have the miraculous and mysterious ability to transform the things we put into our mouths into the bones and tissue we need to survive. They have the brilliant capability of living through enormous tragedy and trauma. They store experiences and life lessons in our marvelously creative and intelligent minds. And they help us express ourselves in a myriad of ways. Just look at the vast output of pictures, photos, paintings, sculpture, songs, craftwork, fashions, furniture, buildings, machines, inventions, and stories we humans create!

We are born to learn, create, and love this life process. Focusing on appearance will never fill us up. Pretty and skinny folks may find a few things a bit easier: some employers are that superficial; and sometimes dating and romance is only skin-deep. But nothing this artificial can give us the deeper meaning and love we crave.

As we go through our days, we get to choose the way we behave. If we choose a loving path, our lives will be the richer for it. Loving the people around us is a familiar idea, but loving our bodies is foreign to most of us. We have been taught to hate our bodies and to vigilantly subdue and control what we perceive as our lazy, gluttonous urges. This judgmental attitude helps keep our dieting and disordered eating patterns alive and well.

It is a radical act to instead be grateful for the unending support we receive from our bodies. If we can begin to see our "body-selves" with new appreciation and treat them gently, this loving kindness will ripple through every cell and recreate who we are. We will walk in less anger, hurt, and hopelessness. We will start to be free to live our true dreams rather than chase after the illusive and impossible measure of thinness. Perhaps we could even transform the destructive culture of body judgment that wounds so many today. So take a deep, loving breath and feel it fill your cells. Breathe out the hatred you have been taught to swallow. It is far too heavy to carry.