Self-Compassion has long been misunderstood as an innate quality gifted only to the patient and penitent. Hearing this word inspires images of Mother Teresa caring for impoverished orphans or Bishop Desmond Tutu offering forgiveness to human rights violators. We think of the Dalai Lama hugging an innocent Northern Ireland man, who lost his sight after being hit by the ricochet of a rubber bullet meant for someone else.
We think of these things, and maybe even verbalize a wish to be more like these folks, forsaking our own ability to think and act self-compassionately, and we move on. But, these people, who have done so many good deeds that their legend seems to supersede their limitations as human beings, are still just people. In examining an event that involved several Maoist soldiers beating up a young child, even the Dalai Lama said that he hopes that he would have been able to respond compassionately, but that he might for all of his good intentions responded aggressively had he been there. The take home message is not that the Dalai Lama is part Chuck Norris, though he might be, but rather that self-compassion is not an inborn and passively maintained character trait. Quite the opposite! Self-Compassion is something we foster from doing.
The Burden Of Criticism
Why is this helpful to you? Because all the self-criticism and criticism of others that you endure without compassion is exhausting, disorganizing, and displeasing you. Think about it. The more critical of yourself and others you become, the more critical thoughts become available to you. The more available they are, the more we feel weighed down by them. Sure, it sounds cool to say critical things about ourselves and others. It gives people the sense that we are so tough that we do not care what the consequences of such actions are, but, in the end, other people do not pay for these thoughts and behaviors. We do!
Finding More Self-Compassion By Thinking Self-Compassionately
I do not know about you, but I wake up every day with the same thought. How can I get more and pay less? With all of our responsibilities, we can ill afford to pay more. I am not suggesting that you rid yourself of negative thoughts. We come by these thoughts naturally, but we can choose what we do with them. If you think about how life’s challenges have made your circumstances and the circumstances of others difficult, you will have greater access to self-compassion, which also means less criticism of yourself and others. If you have not been paying attention, that means more energy and less stress for you!
I am not suggesting that you give yourself or others a free pass to do things that cause pain, I am simply inquiring if finding remedies to those issues would not be made easier by better understanding them. I, for one, believe that all people are capable of great compassion, but to be self-compassionate, you must think self-compassionately. The next time you experience something that causes you pain, observe your wish to judge yourself and others, let it pass, and choose to remember how you and others come by your experience naturally. Like a long road paved with bricks, this brick (a single act of self-compassion) will be one of many, yet its worth is infinite, as it gives you greater and easier access to self-compassion.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 271. In The Books.