The Spiritual Practice of Self-Compassion
I have been reflecting on this question a lot lately. Why can I see greatness in other people, but I am blind to seeing it in myself? Why don’t I extend grace to myself in situations that I readily extend grace to others?
From what I am seeing this is a common theme, not only in my life, but the men I work and have conversations with. We beat the living daylights out of ourselves because we don’t think we measure up to the standards we set for ourselves.
Is it the lies of the enemy that infiltrates our mind or is it just our own harsh inner critic that is screaming at us that you are not enough, you are a failure and you will never measure up to what you should be?
I would venture to guess that it’s a combination of the two. I have been pretty good at taking myself out on my own, I am not sure if I need a lot of help from the devil. I have made it pretty easy on him.
When people pay me a compliment, I am usually thinking to myself, who me? You can’t possibly be talking about me. I am not that good. I minimize any compliment I may get feeling like it isn’t deserved. Feeling like if you only knew the real me you would never say those things about me.
But all of those lies that my harsher inner critic tells me only keeps me playing small and shrinking back. Honestly, I am kind of tired of it. It’s not how I want to live my life any more. I will never be able to step into the abundance that God promises if I don’t believe in myself and I continue to let that harsh inner critic beat me up to a pulp.
That’s why I have been practicing self-compassion relentlessly over the past several months and sharing it with the men I am working with. I believe speaking words of loving kindness to ourselves and then living that out in our daily lives is one of the best things we can do for our mental well-being and the people around us.
I came across this quote from Tara Brach recently. Tara is a Ph.D, psychologist, author and teacher of meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. It spoke to my heart because I believe it to be true and have experienced this in my own life.
“Awakening self-compassion is often the greatest challenge people face on the spiritual path.” -Tara Brach
I believe it’s time to change that in our lives. That is why I have made practicing self-compassion one of my top priorities in my life. I don’t want to beat myself up any more.
I believe practicing self-compassion is an art. It’s a beautiful practice. Speaking words of loving kindness to ourselves doesn’t come naturally because we have long standing deeply wired brain patterns of verbal self-abuse. Practicing self-compassion is a skill that takes days, months and maybe even years to master, but I think the more we do it the quicker it will become second nature.
My practice of self-compassion consists of three different spiritual practices. I am doing them less than perfectly, but it is helping me to move beyond my harsh inner critic allowing me to see my genuine goodness.
Accepting My Humanity and Believing in My Divinity
The reality is that I am a human being. I am going to make mistakes and I am going to make poor choices in my life, especially when I don’t see myself the way God sees me. My normal practice is to beat myself up for my poor choices. I would replay them over and over in my mind thinking I should know better by now.
Here is everyone’s truth. We all have made mistakes in our lives. We have all hurt people and have been hurt by people. That is the reality of the world we live in.
But here is the good news. God never attaches what I did with who I am. I am a beloved son of God. That is my identity no matter what. So if God doesn’t attach my identity to what I did, then why should I? Why should I hold myself to a higher standard than God does?
It’s next to impossible to live with self-compassion if we don’t forgive ourselves for our past mistakes.
Somehow many Christians, including myself, got the message we are inherently broken and sinners. That is the wrong message. We are inherently good. We just make poor choices sometimes. We are invincible souls of divine love. What if we lived our life that way, knowing we are good instead of broken?
To grow spiritually and overcome that harsh inner critic it is so vital that we accept our humanity and believe in our divinity. I am learning to flip the switch when I start to hear that harsh inner critic rear its ugly head. I shift my thoughts immediately from the voice that screams inside my head that I am not enough to speaking words of loving kindness to myself. Not only speaking them, but believing them and embodying how that feels. And that leads me to my next practice.
I have a challenge for you if you choose to accept it. I call it the loving kindness mirror challenge. It’s going to feel weird and awkward at first.
The challenge is to look in the mirror every morning, look yourself square in the eye, and tell yourself that you love yourself and one thing that you love about yourself.
I know, kind of weird isn’t it? But why? Why is it so easy to berate ourselves and beat ourselves up and so difficult to speak words of loving kindness to ourselves? I think we have that backwards. Give it a try and see what happens. I bet you will start to change how you see yourself.
I have been practicing Centering Prayer for about a year now. It’s a spiritual practice that is rooted in letting go and surrendering my life to Christ. I believe that radical self-acceptance is grounded in spending quiet time with God in some form of meditation practice. Centering Prayer has been that form of meditation for me.
It doesn’t have to be Centering Prayer, but I strongly believe without some form of meditation practice that teaches us to go inward and listen to the loving voice of God, we will continue to struggle with self-acceptance. It has become a non-negotiable for me.
I will briefly share the practice of Centering Prayer with you found on the Center for Contemplative Living website. I want to encourage you to explore what works best for you. There are so many different forms of meditation out there, both Christian and secular based. The bottom line is finding a practice that cultivates inner stillness, letting go and self-acceptance.
The practice of centering prayer is very simple. Making time for and committing to the practice may not be easy in the world of distractions.
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word, especially when you notice you’re indulging some thought or another.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with your eyes closed for a couple of minutes before you slowly open them.
The recommended practice of centering prayer is twice a day, for twenty minutes a session. How you time the sessions is up to you. An online meditation application might be more gentle than, say, an oven timer. However, you can practice more or less, as long as you commit to a time each day to practice centering prayer, regardless of your mood or schedule
I have made a personal internal commitment to make these three spiritual practices of self-compassion a non-negotiable in my life. When I beat myself up for my humanity nobody wins and it hurts God when we aren’t compassionate towards ourselves.
I want to encourage you to find the spiritual practices that work for you that allows you to be kinder and gentler to yourself. You deserve to treat yourself with compassion, we all do.
Founder and Creator of Barbells & Brothers