20 October 2013
Earlier today I gave my fourteenth "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester. As always, I was introduced as Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester because I want to promote the organisation and what it does.
My theme was that successful people are far more able to help other people than are people who are less successful. I also drew inspiration from the words of Jesus as a reminder of the importance of loving yourself.
After I give lectures, young people often approach me for career advice. Most of them want to work for a charity or a voluntary organisation. They almost never ask me about working for a big firm, or about careers that pay lots of money.
Wanting to help other people is very noble. Indeed, since I retired I spend most of my time helping other people, either directly with advice or indirectly, for example, by appearing on this programme!
However there is one important point that these idealistic young people have forgotten. To remind them, I always use the example of airline safety videos.
After reminding you to check where the emergency exits are, they tell you about the oxygen masks which drop down if there is a loss of cabin pressure. If you are travelling with a child or a passenger who needs help, the safety video tells you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before you help your child to put their mask on.
That is because the first requirement for helping other people is being able to take care of yourself. The more successful you are, the more money, skills and connections you have with which to help other people.
That means there is nothing wrong in thinking about yourself. You should be asking yourself “What can I do to be more successful in my career. What can I do to be richer? What can I do to be healthier?”
Jesus had something to say about this.
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, Jesus condenses religion into two commandments. The first is about loving God. The second says, in the King James Version, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Apart from being a message to love your neighbour, this is also a message to love yourself. If you do not love yourself, how you can possibly know how to love your neighbour?
Loving yourself means taking action to make your own life more enjoyable and more successful.
The richer you are, the healthier you are, and the happier you are, the more you can do for your neighbour and for the rest of the world.