Showing Self-Compassion Day 1: Self-Kindness
What is your self-talk like when you make a mistake or say the wrong thing? What about when
you keep struggling with the same thing, and you look around at others and they seem to be so good at what you struggle with? When you arrive at an event and notice that some of the people look more put together than you, what do you think about yourself? Are you kind and compassionate? Would you say to a friend the things you think or say to yourself?
Mark 12:31 states, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Yet many of us have difficulty with how we view or treat ourselves. I am not promoting an unhealthy self-focus, but rather a perspective of self that aligns with God’s. Psalm 139:14 (CSB) reads, “I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.”
We are made in God’s image, as stated in Genesis 1:27 (ESV): “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
People are often concerned that self-compassion is letting yourself off the hook and being too easy on yourself. That might be more like a pity party, but self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-compassion is the ability to be with yourself in your pain and suffering. Kristen Neff, a respected researcher in the field, defines self-compassion as being no different than the compassion you have for others. Secondly, she posits that to have compassion for others one must notice that they are suffering. To have compassion means to be moved by another’s suffering. Compassion literally means to “suffer with.” Additionally, compassion involves feeling warmth and care towards another, and it means that you also realize that suffering and failure are common to all humanity; suffering is not an isolated event, but rather a shared experience (Neff, 2022).
Having self-compassion is important for many reasons, including being able to accept God’s compassion for ourselves. “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth” (Psalm 86:15, CSV). As we soak in God’s compassion, we are more able to express His compassion towards others.
One of the elements of self-compassion is self-kindness versus self-judgment. “Self-kindness is a kind attitude towards the self in painful moments rather than harsh self-criticism and self-degradation” (Neff, 2003).
Reacting to ourselves in self-judgment often leads to not doing or saying encouraging things to others, or building into each other. It can hinder us from using our gifts of serving and encouragement, and we can begin to withdraw and self-isolate. It leads to discouragement and often to depression and anxiety, and can hinder recovery and healing. Self-judgment can contribute to not being used in the way God intended to use us, and it can affect our relationships with those around us.
As I was writing about self-compassion, a friend shared this poem with me by Morgan Harper Nichols. It reminded me of how good it would be if we could be as gentle with ourselves as we are with our expectations of nature. Perhaps it has to do with trust, but maybe, just maybe, we can trust the work that God is doing in us.
You have never shamed the waves
for not arriving on the ocean shore
any sooner than they were meant to, and you have
never looked above you to guilt the clouds for
taking their time as they cross the noonday sky.
You simply accept
these clouds must travel
at the pace
they were meant to.
Oh, what a difference
it would make
if you gave yourself
this same grace.
I would like to gently challenge each reader to be kind to yourself this month and take in God’s compassion towards you. When you react in self-judgment, notice how that feels in your body: it may show up as tightness in your back or shoulders, or perhaps lifted shoulders or tightness in your chest. As you think on and take in God’s compassion and care for you and His acceptance of you, observe the shift in your body—perhaps a deeper breath, a slight relaxation of your chest or shoulders. Notice the changes as you take in His love and His acceptance of you. This is not pity, nor is it a lowering of standards, but rather an acknowledgement that, yes, this is hard right now, and God understands and cares. He is with me in this—I am not alone.