The Key Role of Self-Compassion   Leave a comment

The true spiritual journey leads into the depths of our hearts, an excavation, really, since it is a constant breaking through to new levels of realization.  That effort takes great courage in facing the intense fear and pain that have held us back, keeping us blind to our true selves.  Each new layer of self-realization opens wounds that have been hidden safely away by our mind’s defensive strategies, but we must drop our guard and feel the sharp edges of our suffering if we want our bruised hearts to be truly embraced.  The path of growth is strewn with the barbs of truth that pierce our feet each step of our journey home.

Here is where self-compassion rather than self-blame is crucial in working our way through.  Healthy transformation is always grounded in grace.  Nowhere is grace more needed than at this point of freshly acknowledging our brokenness.  This is not avoiding responsibility, but embracing responsibility, since our primary duty at this stage is receiving grace, a bedrock belief that we are loved unconditionally by our heavenly Father.   There will come a time to focus on giving others grace–of understanding and forgiving the wounds they have inflicted–but this is a second step.  We can only give what we have first received.

To give others grace before it has settled into our own hearts is to try to pour water from an empty pitcher.  You will lose sight of your own suffering if you jump too quickly into defending others, which is a reaction forced on you by guilt or obligation rather than a gift offered to others freely from an overflow of grace in your heart.  This shortcut is unsustainable and will lead to a cycle repeated over and over of wounding, reaction, and return to the status quo.  This quick fix is often accompanied by “forgiveness” or compromise, but the underlying issues are never resolved and so they keep returning without leading to deeper mutual understanding and acceptance.  True forgiveness springs from grace, not obligation–ask any child forced to apologize–and grace must first be received before it can be given: “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

Self-compassion is nothing more than seeing ourselves as God sees us, agreeing with Him that we are deeply and fully and unshakably loved.  When we open to, welcome, embrace, trust, relish this love of God for us, we are living by faith, faith in God’s grace and love.  We live in the reality that we are supremely loveable because God himself declares us to be, and none of our failings makes Him value us less than his own eternal and perfect Son.

But so many Christians fear grace, caution against its freedom, worry that self-love will lead to spiritual neglect or self-indulgence by those who think their screw-ups no longer matter.  In fact they matter even more because the relationship we now damage is one of supreme value and importance to us, our life-sustenance.  If true value comes from God, then our relationship with Him is our vital force.  Imagine a deep-sea diver saying, “Well, now that I know my oxygen comes to me regardless of how I behave, I can cut my own hose and it won’t matter.”  God does not turn off His grace towards us or close His heart to us when we turn from Him–the oxygen keeps flowing–but we can no longer access that vital source.  He wants to grace our relationships, but when we take advantage of others, He is blocked from gracing that relationship until we turn again to His loving way.  When we neglect or belittle others, when we are greedy and demanding, His grace is restricted from flowing into our daily interactions, and life sours around us and in our hearts, which are now being overgrown with the deadly effects of godlessness (having less of God).  Grace is the door into life and relationship with God, not an escape hatch from all that is good and beneficial.  If we seek for life by pushing God and His truth away in “selfishness”, it is rather an act of self-abuse–like a drug fix.  This does not spring from too much self-compassion, but too little; it springs from a doubt in God’s love, not a confidence in it.  Everything that leads us away from the supreme beauty and goodness of God into our own self-destructive way is self-hatred, not self-love.

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Posted December 21, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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