Self compassion. Who needs it? Well, all the humans.
It is hard, however, to love others when we struggle to love ourselves. This can be reality for many people. Sometimes it is just a season. For others it is an enduring struggle. And thus, self compassion is (an elusive) key to unlocking many doors to a good and meaningful life. Self compassion does not mean self obsession or selfishness or even a preoccupation with oneself. Rather it is an honest and humble view of one’s life. It is to resist self loathing and embrace kindness for one’s own heart and thinking and relationships and actions.
Speaking for myself, I can be such an incredibly harsh self-critic. I’ve been giving up perfectionism consciously since I was 11 years old. In sixth grade I wrote a self description for a classroom bulletin board that said “I’m a perfectionist who is harder on herself than anyone else.” Ouch.
It took another decade to get past mere recognition of perfectionism and start to embrace self compassion and accept my humanity. To trade drivenness for grace.
Perfectionism is no path of self-compassion. Even with healing, it remains something like a competition within me. On any given day, hour, or moment either can win. I’m quite good at compassion for other people, cultivating both empathy and understanding, and advocating readily for the needs of others. It is much more challenging to offer simple love and compassion — without any shades of doubt or judgment — to my own heart and soul.
When you are fully honest with yourself, what is your approach to self compassion?
In February people love to talk about love. And it is everywhere.
Love is the heartbeat and heartbreak of popular music. It motivates our favorite TV and movie dramas. And love of all kinds [cue seminary lecture on Greek words for love] is used to sell everything from financial products to cars to yogurt. You gotta admit, this time of year in American culture brings out the creativity. Commercials appeal to romantic love (eros) and sibling and friendship love (philia) and pure godly love (agape), and affection between parents and children (storge).
(There is also an attempt to “rebrand Jesus” this year during Super Bowl LXII, but I’ll point you to our friend Mitch Randall over at Good Faith Media for that one. I don’t think they have the LOVE of Jesus quite right.)
Still, love and compassion are the heart of our religion if we claim to be Christian. And that love is not something we simply give away to others while sacrificing our own well-being. Jesus made it pretty clear… to love God, self, and neighbors, to love enemies and to do justice, are all part of the ecology of God’s household and kin*dom of love.
Mindfulness and Prayer
One way to pause and experience a deeper sense of love for oneself is with prayer and meditation that centers on our beloved witness. God made us and loves us and we need not forget it.
When loss comes as it has over the last three years, and it crashes over us in great waves of grief over concrete and hard-to-name ambiguous losses, we can find ourselves running from our own suffering. In our attempt to escape the hard feelings, the less-than-comfortable sadness, anger, and perhaps guilt or shame around these losses, we further deprive ourselves self compassion that can help us navigate these big feelings.
In the Christian tradition of contemplative or centering prayer reside many gifts. One of the gifts cultivated with time, is a shift in one’s mind and heart from being a victim of one’s own feelings and internal stories to becoming a witness to one’s experience of life.
In today’s conversation with Dr. Joyce Ann Mercer of Yale Divinity school, we learn another self compassion practice. She learned it from Dr. Kristin Neff who has many resources on mindfulness. Listen to our brief conversation here:
Give Self Compassion a Chance
Friends, there are many people who enter helping professions because they are motivated to offer to others what was not available for them. Our wounds can be converted into meaningful purpose. Yet it is so important to seek healing and self compassion before trying to turn our suffering into care for others. Unprocessed, that suffering can inflict itself further on other people. But when we have been self compassionate and loving, healing and forgiving toward ourselves, power of love and purpose in serving others can be quite profound.
We are the humans. We need love and self compassion.
God and the Spirit of the Holy is waiting in each breath to fill us with a sense of belovedness. Our part is to practice self compassion for our griefs and our losses, and our suffering. Then they may come to coexist with joy and friendship, romance and family love. The fullness of life.
And the contest between suffering and self compassion may indeed remain. Yet with practice, we can become a witness rather than a victim of our suffering. And self compassion will prepare us for the purposes to which we are called.
May you know self compassion for your suffering, losses and griefs today, friends. pic.twitter.com/bpZ3bawO6X
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) February 12, 2023
Return of the 3MMM podcast episodes
We are excited to begin sharing the audio for our brief weekly episodes in podcast format once again! Season 5 will be geared toward short videos and blogs and the first five episodes are currently being converted into podcasts for those who love to listen while they bike, do dishes, take walks, or craft. The first one is ready now! Visit Episode 71 and subscribe to the 3MMM podcast today.
We also have a new closer starting with today’s episode. See what you think:
Thank you for listening to Three Minute Ministry Mentor. For more podcasts, weekly episodes, videos and blogs, please visit 3MMM.US/welcome.
I’m your host Eileen Campbell-Reed and I believe what you’re doing matters. Let us know how we can support you.