I’m currently suffering from a case of “You’re your own worst enemy.”
While I recognize compassion is a virtue, I’m not at all known for my compassion. But I’m just starting to see that perhaps practicing compassion with others starts by practicing self-compassion. Some of us out in the world are way too easy on ourselves. But, probably, most of us are quite in the other boat.
Is it healthy for me to chastise my little brother for slacking when he should be working on homework? I don’t think so! But I do this and I can excuse it because I know that I get on myself at least as much when I am the one slacking on my schoolwork.
But this means that anytime I’m not feeling grateful or hopeful or joyful, I feel guilty and ashamed and my first instinct is to beat the negativity out of me. I explained the situation to a friend recently:
Generally, people who are trying to make someone in this situation feel better will attempt to convince the person who is struggling (me) that her problems may not be big, but since they are big to her, it’s perfectly acceptable to get upset over them.
But, though I do agree in some ways, I also find this somewhat insulting, because the comforter is essentially stating that I really am a wimp because my little problems are really that big of a deal to me.
The opposite far extreme–which most caring people don’t go to–would be to suggest that I am right: my problems aren’t really so bad. And thereby, to tell me that, heck!, I should stinkin’ just get over them.
To be honest, in some ways that is the answer I prefer.”
When I can’t fulfill my high expectations for myself, I am upset with myself. One page in my journal reads, “I hate myself. I hate my lack of confidence. I hate that I’m not persistent or experienced. I hate that I’m afraid. I hate that I think I’m all positive and then I’m actually not…I hate that I cry because of everything. I hate that I can’t just be a hero and get on with it…”
When I don’t meet expectations, I want to continually scold myself for it. And I want others to do the same. Because I believe I really deserve it.
But. While I’m tempted to see this as the humble approach, it’s actually quite disrespectful to our God, our Judge. God–who created me–determined that I am worth his grace. The self-harm of not allowing myself any grace is not a humility technique. It is a pointless pain–not only to myself either. When I don’t allow myself any compassion, I am rejecting the grace that God desires for me, which hurts him as well.
God created me the way I am. And he loves me. I make mistakes because I live in a sinful world and have not yet been fully sanctified. But that doesn’t stop God from being compassionate toward me. He offers me his grace and he wants me to flourish under this.
I’ve said it before in a previous related post, but it’s worth repeating. Friends, hear this: when you allow shame to define who you are, you are not practicing humility or giving yourself what you deserve. Instead you are scorning the death which has set you free and rejecting the joy that the Lord desperately wants you experience.
I need to believe I am who God says I am. I need to start allowing myself to be compassionate to myself (which, in and of itself, will be a journey that requires self-compassion). And then I will finally be free to be compassionate to others.
Be gentle on yourself today.