Showing Self-Compassion Day 3: Common Humanity
In the first two articles on self-compassion, I provided a definition and shared that self-compassion has three elements: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. I described how self-kindness is needed over self-judgment, mindfulness is the ability to stay in the present moment, and common humanity is the realization that suffering is universal and something all of us experience. In this article I am going to share with you more about what common humanity means and how we can practice it.
“Self-kindness is a kind attitude towards the self in painful moments rather than harsh self-criticism and self-degradation. Common humanity refers to framing one’s suffering as part of being human and as an experience that connects the self to others rather than isolating oneself from them” (Neff, 2003).
We see this common humanity in the Bible; in the Psalms we see many emotions expressed that we can relate to. I believe God gave us the book of Psalms so we could feel validated in our emotions and experiences and then extend His compassion toward ourselves and others. During some of my deeper moments of suffering, I have drawn compassionate comfort from the words of David in Psalm 34:18 (NLT), “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Many have drawn comfort from these words.
I have often found that I tend to withdraw from others when I am struggling. It feels more natural to share in others’ burdens rather than sharing my own. The enemy likes things kept in the dark and likes us to think we are alone and that no one will understand. When we suffer alone, we miss out on the support and encouragement we can receive from others. We also miss out on the comfort they can provide. The Lord knew that we would need one another when He instructed us to “share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NLT).
When we understand that what we are feeling is common to others, we will feel less alone and not isolated in the dark. Let’s bring things into the light and share the struggles and challenges we are facing. As Neff suggests, every moment of suffering can be an opportunity for connection. I encourage you to realize that you are not alone, that others are also struggling; and just as you need encouragement and hope, so do they. “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).
As we think about the common humanity of suffering, may I remind you that we all suffer, even as believers. No one is exempt. This isn’t meant to take away from your suffering or to minimize what you are going through, but rather to help you realize that you are not alone. You are not the only one going through pain while others are having such a great life, as their social media pictures may portray. Those are simply moments in their lives, but so often underneath are deep and painful struggles that cause them to also feel alone. May I encourage each of you to consider reaching out to someone you can trust, and share with them even a little of what you are going through. Or if you aren’t struggling right now, perhaps you can ask the Lord to lay on your heart someone you can reach out to and offer some support and care. Let’s carry one another’s burdens and share our own to make this common humanity experience a little lighter.