Photo courtesy of Jeremy Segrott / Flickr

Fr. Ron Rolheiser Offers Insight on How to Love Yourself

On Wednesday, March 15, the Church in the 21st Century Center and the Division of Student Affairs partnered together to bring in Fr. Ron Rolheiser, President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. The Church in the 21st Century Center, more commonly known as the C21 Center, began in 2002 to act as a catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States. The C21 Center makes it their mission to foster critical conversations about faith, sexuality, roles and relationships, and the Catholic intellectual tradition.

In this C21 lecture, Fr. Rolheiser, writer of countless columns and books and active speaker on spirituality, offered the BC community insight on “How to Love Yourself: Carrying Your Solitude at a High Level.” Below, The Gavel lays out Fr. Rolheiser’s nine steps for loving yourself, and, therefore, being more capable of loving other people.

Be grounded in something beyond your culture and this world.

Fr. Rolheiser recommends that we “beware of the crowd.” In a world where it can be difficult to step out of comfort zones and disregard expectations, it is important that we move past the superficialities of life and ground ourselves in something deeper.

Be free of ideology.

In today’s society, it’s easy to get wrapped up in labels and the preconceived ideas that go along with them. Differing ideologies can sometimes create a divisive line, so Fr. Rolheiser emphasizes the importance of looking beyond them and putting your focus on being a compassionate person above anything else. He believes that freeing yourself of ideologies allows you to delve deeper into the most important aspects of life. Posing the question of whether Jesus would have been liberal or conservative, he said, “It’s impossible to answer. Jesus was a person of deep compassion, and he went wherever that compassion took him. It took him to the right, it took him to the left.”

Make hope your horizon.

When we hear the word hope, we sometimes confuse it with optimism or wishful thinking, but these are not what Fr. Rolheiser is referring to. To him, hope is about knowing that all will be well in the end. He recommends having a meta narrative, a bigger story, in order to keep the little things in life from breaking our happiness.

Have a wide, catholic heart.

In this sense, the word catholic translates to universal, meaning that we must have room for all people in our hearts, not just those who live the way that we do.

Practice chastity as a form of non-violence.

Fr. Rolheiser stated, “Chastity is three words: respect, reverence, and patience.” He emphasized the importance of these three qualities in all aspects of our lives. To him, chastity is what keeps us from becoming bored with our lives—it is what keeps us waiting for what is to come.

Be idealistic.

As college students, we’re often told to be realistic and not get our hopes up, but Fr. Rolheiser recommends the opposite. He admires idealism in people, and he thinks it is essential for college students, among others, to invest in it. He says, “If you want to be 1 in 100, if you want to have something that’s really special, you have to pay the price. And that is to be the 1 in 100.” It’s not bad to strive for an ideal world, because, in the end, striving for the ideal is the only thing that will bring you closer to it.

Live for others, and always be on the side of the poor.

As Fr. Rolheiser put it, “We can’t love ourselves properly if we do not love and serve the poor. The happiest people in the world that I’ve known are always those who are serving others.” From simply listening to a friend, to actively participating in service, we have endless opportunities to live for others. It is in living for others, more than anywhere else, that we will find true joy in our lives.

Beware the demon called success.

While success is a constant drive in our lives, it is easy to let it overtake us. We should not be deterred from working hard and aiming for success, but we should be aware that it’s not the most important thing in life.

Always keep a sense of humor to save yourself from pompousness and grandiosity.

Without a sense of humor, it is easy to become overly proud of our successes. It’s important that we can be lighthearted at times, to keep us from taking life too seriously. As Fr. Rolheiser said, “Keep laughing.”

In giving his nine guidelines for “How to Love Yourself,” Fr. Rolheiser also left the audience with some wisdom on true happiness, saying, “If someone comes up to you and asks, ‘Are you happy in your life? Are you happy going to Boston College? Are you happy in your relationships?’ Is that a good question? It’s not. It’s a question to torture yourself with. As soon as you start thinking about it, you’ve probably got tears in your eyes. This is the wrong question. But if someone comes to you and says ‘Is there meaning in your life? Is there meaning in what you’re doing, or what you’re studying? That’s a very different question. That tracks more to the question of true happiness.” Find what is meaningful to you, and you’ve already started loving yourself.

Avid optimist who likes long walks on the beach with a Long Island bagel and iced coffee in hand. As my favorite man Drake once said, "I swear this life is like the sweetest thing I've ever known."