I recently hosted a pool party for some friends. It may seem a bit strange, considering my introvert tendencies, but I also like settings where lots of people are enjoying themselves.
Laughter is infectious, and I have a great time when I’m with people who are just having fun. We had no agenda, other than to spend time together having fun.
Most of us played in the pool, like little kids. This was fun, just for the fact that our group spanned from teens to grandparents, with college students and newlyweds sprinkled in.
I found a pool table, and started playing with one of my friends. A pair of grad students from India asked if they could join, and we played teams with them. One of the students had only been in America for 4 days. We hope to connect with them soon and show them around town.
The after-party moved to our apartment. Though not huge, we squeezed about 15 people in there. We played games and eventually fired up the karaoke machine.
Then it happened. Someone picked “The Greatest Love of all” by Whitney Houston, and wanted me to sing a duet with them. I obliged, but inwardly I felt conflicted.
Whitney died tragically of a drug overdose, so the love of self didn’t seem to help her in the end. Then I started to think about Robin Williams, who recently committed suicide after losing the battle to depression. He was an amazing actor, making people laugh all over the globe, yet his love of others was insufficient to keep on living.
We hear conflicting views on what the secret of ultimate fulfillment are. Some say love yourself above all else. But we see examples in Hollywood and everyday life of people who become bitter and angry, because their self love has no patience for those who don’t worship them or meet their every fleeting desires.
Others will say love others, and stop being so selfish. But outward love unchecked can lead to despair and burnout, as the needs are greater than any one individual’s capacity to help. These become bitter because they feel others should be sacrificing as much as they are, and anyone who doesn’t is self absorbed.
So what is the right response? Is self love the right response, or is loving others? Is there a balance between the two, or is something else needed?