devozine

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Self-Compassion

Francesca Baker

We all know people we think are great because of their quick mind, kind demeanour, or creativity. But all too often, we take their strengths as an automatic indication of our weaknesses.

Human beings are social creatures. We form groups and seek connections. We look to others for guidance, reassurance, and inspiration. But seeking approval and comparing ourselves to others can lead to self-criticism and negative self-talk. Have you listened to what you say to yourself? Do these comments sound familiar?

  • “Everyone else likes to watch movies rather than read. I’m so weird.”
  • “She didn’t invite me to her party. I’m so unpopular; nobody likes me.”

We are not very nice, are we? Can you imagine making comments like these to another person? Of course not! Negative self-talk hurts, and much of it comes from comparing ourselves to other people or wanting their approval.

God created every one of us different, with positive and beautiful qualities. The strengths of other people do not automatically make us weak. If someone else is clever, you are not inherently less intelligent. If you think differently, you’re not wrong or weird. If being normal is being the same as everyone else, then no one is normal, because God made each of us unique.

God, who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8, NIV), made each of us in God’s image. Therefore, we have the capacity for tenderness and love—toward others and ourselves. Of course, even when we are doing the best we can, we inevitably make mistakes; but being critical of ourselves is no way to celebrate God’s gift of life. Knowing that God loves and forgives us, we can learn to love and forgive ourselves—not pretending that nothing has happened, but accepting it and moving on in ways that let us learn from the experience. Being kind to ourselves is not the same as being self-indulgent or avoiding responsibility. It’s a way to give ourselves room to grow, without the pressure of doubt and guilt that comes from comparing or approval-seeking.

Everyone has struggles, but often they are hidden. Only you and God know the inner workings of your heart, which no one else can see. The same is true for others as well. You may see someone living an apparently wonderful life and feel sad that your own does not measure up. But how do you know what burdens that person carries inside?

As we seek to be more accepting of others, we must learn to accept ourselves as well. Luke 6:31 (NIV) says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” What about its flip side? Treat yourself as you would treat others.

 

DIG DEEPER

For the next 30 days, practice being kind to yourself. Let these ideas help you learn to accept, embrace, and celebrate what makes you unique.

Letter to God

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Every day write three things you are thankful for—one about yourself, one about another person, one about the world.
  • Close your eyes, and bring to mind someone you care about. Offer for him or her this prayer of blessing: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from worry.” Next, imagine someone you are not close to or someone you dislike. Repeat the blessing, sincerely directing your love toward this person. Finally, visualise yourself. Say to yourself the words of compassion and blessing.
  • Make a list of what you believe about yourself. Explore where each idea comes from. Try to think back to a situation, person, or feeling that may have triggered this belief or reinforced it. Then ask: Is it from God? Is it true? Am I judging myself?
Francesca Baker (www.andsoshethinks.co.uk) believes the world is full of opportunity and beauty and is passionate about using her gifts of curiosity and creativity to experience it, while keeping attuned to the body, soul, and world she inhabits.

—from devozine (January/February 2016). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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