Manataka American Indian Council



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The Gifting Way Vs Love Yourself First

by Lee Standing Bear and Takatoka


A prolific writer of New Age spirituality, Patricia Cota-Robles, recently released "Learning To Love Yourself" CD set that sparked some interest at Manataka.  According to Cota-Robles, not having a good job, money, loving relationships, good health and happiness stems from poor self-esteem.  She says, "learning to love yourself is the key to improving your life."  The message is clear -- we simply do not love ourselves enough. 


Cota-Robles is not the only one out there espousing the same self-help philosophy.  A recent search of books on the Love Yourself philosophy uncovered literally thousands of books, cd's, and training seminars on the subject.  Billions of dollars are spent each year worldwide by people searching to fulfill their lives by loving themselves more.  The "Love Yourself First" idea is poplar among all Self-Help gurus and T.V. personalities.  The famous lovable TV comic Lucille Ball once said, "I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.


Love Yourself First is also a very popular idea among psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and many other professionals, such as Christian ministers.  TV preacher, Joel Osteen has jumped on the bandwagon and regularly invites his audience to " yourself first".  


Proponents of this philosophy say its roots may be found in the Biblical Golden Rule, “...You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 


And, everyone has heard the old saying, "You must first love yourself before you can love others".  Even though this saying has nearly attained the status of an axiom of truth, it has not yet been proven true because it still has detractors and controversy.


Among those who disagree with the "Love Yourself First" idea is Lee Standing Bea Moore, an Elder of the Manataka American Indian Council who says "Love Yourself First" is  a philosophy that is "...upside down and backwards thinking.."


According to Lee Standing Bear, the words sound good, but in practice they lead humans down a dead-end road that brings about feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and low self-esteem.  The Love Yourself idea blends well in a society preoccupied with self-gratification, self-absorption, and material wealth. 


Grandfather Bear believes the ancient "Gifting Way" of the American Indian brings balance and wholeness to the life experience and is contrary to the Love Yourself approach.  "The Gifting Way begins with loving those farthest way from ourselves – people we do not know in far-away lands. Those are the people we often times mistake for being enemies because we fail to understand their ways," said Lee Standing Bear.


"We begin by loving them FIRST, then we love those people who live within our awareness, within our own culture.  Next, we find ways to love people who live within our state, city and neighborhood.  Finally, we do things to show our love to our friends and relatives. Once, all of this is accomplished and only then, can a person truly love themselves. Loving oneself is not possible if you do not love others first," say Lee Standing Bear. 


The Gifting Way first considers the welfare of others and concentrates on those outside ones immediate circle.  The successful survival of the American Indian philosophy depends on the Gifting Way and would certainly have perished if the Love Yourself First attitude had pervaded their lives. 


"It is silly to think simply because we love ourselves that everyone around us will automatically fall in love with us.  Love is not self-centered, but starts with giving to others, said Grandfather Bear.


The Gifting Way includes presenting gifts to elders, the poor, veterans, friends and relatives but the practice always held a much deeper meaning -- It meant giving the most valuable thing a person can give another -- ones love.  The actual gift is merely a symbol of that love.  


Famous American Indian writer, Joseph Bruchac once wrote, "...Giving in a sacred way has always been a central part of American Indian cultures. It may be a means of giving thanks, of bringing the people together, of gaining honor, of distributing material goods so that all may survive, of teaching. It maintains the balance that is needed to hold a nation together and to keep an individual in the right relationship within him or herself and with the community—a community that is not just composed of humans, but also of animals, plants, even the stones. For all things are alive."


The Gifting Way truly fulfills Biblical advise, “ thy neighbor as thyself.”  This passage does not mean to place yourself above your neighbor, or place yourself first. It emphasizes human equality, understanding, compassion and love.  The Love Yourself First crowd fails to comprehend the fact that empty daily affirmations do not build a positive ego -- but daily works of love for others does.  If we concentrate on giving to others, love will be returned in good measure.


The Gifting Way loves unconditionally and does not demand love in return.  The Gifting Way is giving oneself wholly to the family, clan, tribe and nation.  That builds Oneness among all people.