Most of us are taught from an early age that all life is precious – or, at the very least, that all human life is precious. But how well do we really learn this lesson?
All spiritual and religious traditions, as well as the best secular value systems, tell us that life is precious. These traditions do not distinguish between individual human beings, assigning more or less value depending on race, monetary worth or any other criteria.
Yet, so often as a counsellor, I have met people who value their own lives less than those of others. I had a young client who literally couldn’t bear to hurt a bug – her mother told me of how she saved a beetle from being accidentally squashed and how they weren’t allowed to kill ants in their home. Yet this same girl often cut herself – mostly on her arms – with a blade.
I am not suggesting, of course, that low self-worth is an unexplainable phenomenon. During counselling, we uncovered certain incidents in my client’s childhood that had a very direct bearing on her lack of self-worth. Even so, is not surprising that she was so mindful of a beetle’s life and cared so little for her own well-being?
Another woman, a devoted and fiercely protective mother of two, tried to kill herself when she discovered her husband was cheating on her. Why would she put his fidelity (or lack of it) above her own life? Fortunately, she survived the attempt, got counselling and has not looked back since. Her love of her children has helped her to move on – and, I hope, also a newly-discovered love of herself.
The Bible tells us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. This assumes that we already love ourselves. That part – loving oneself – does not need an explanation. Or so it seems.
The Bhagavad Gita, which encapsulates India’s Vedic wisdom, teaches us that our innermost core, and our Highest Self, is atma, or soul, which is an aspect of God. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, when you fold your hands and bow to another, you are saluting that innermost Self in the other person: the Buddha within, the atma, the spark of divine fire at their centre. In return, they fold their hands in deference to the divinity within you.
All our lives are precious. In the overall scheme of things, your life is no more – and no less – precious than any other. But to you, it should in fact be more precious because it is a personal gift to you, for which you alone are responsible.
Whatever our beliefs regarding creation, we all know we did not create ourselves. This life, therefore, has been given to us – as a gift. Do you treat this gift of life with the love and respect, and responsibility, it deserves? Do you appreciate, do you treasure, the most precious gift that you can possibly receive on this Earth?