Self-compassion is not self-pity, where we wallow in the shame of what we have done. It is not self-complacency, where we just accept where we are. Instead, it is the idea that we can be kind to ourselves when we fail and treat ourselves with the caring support we would give another who is struggling. – Kim Fredrickson.
Jenny, a junior attorney in a large law firm in Western Tennessee, found herself battling self-condemning, negative self-talk about everything. It had gotten so out-of-hand that she couldn’t sleep the night before being in court to argue a case.
Her boss had noticed her doing double and triple research and spending extra hours in the law library. She became so overwhelmed that she called him for help the morning of her first solo trial.
At lunch, after the trial, he revealed that he had suffered some of the same problems when he first began soloing on cases. He gave her some tools to help with the negative self-talk.
They began meeting weekly to review her progress in exchanging her negative self-talk for positive self-talk.
It had been three weeks since Herman, Jenny’s boss,” had bailed her out of her first solo case. They had arranged to meet at the local coffee shop after work on Friday nights on a regular basis.
Jenny had a table in the corner when Herman walked in. He noticed the concern, almost a frown, on Jenny’s face as he sat down.
“What’s up?” he asked. “You look worried or upset or stressed. Something?”
“Well, you have been talking to me about self-compassion and how I needed to extend compassion to myself.”
“I was raised in a Christian home where we went to church all the time. My dad was an elder for most of my life. I’m not sure that self-compassion is Biblical. I picked up a magazine at lunch today and there was an article about self-compassion being a fundamental principle of Buddhism that advocates bringing moderation and balance to everything that you do. I’m not really sure I want to go down that road.”
“I am so glad you brought that up. In the Bible, the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery. They stated that the Law of Moses commanded that they stone her and asked him what he thought should be done. Jesus bent down and began to write with his finger on the ground. As he continued writing he said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The crowd of accusers slipped away one by one. Jesus said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again (John 8:11). This states that Jesus does not condone condemnation or self-condemnation.”
“Again, the Pharisees asked Jesus which of all the commandments was the most important. He responded, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31”
“The way I see it,” he said. “If you are to love your neighbor as yourself, you have to show yourself some love and compassion. Would you berate your neighbor telling them they couldn’t do anything right or they were stupid or they’re going to get fired?”
Jenny shook her head “no.”
Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
“Then if you wouldn’t treat your neighbor that way, how can you treat yourself in that manner. Webster’s dictionary describes compassion as ‘a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.’ Too often we extend that compassion to others, but not to ourselves. How would it feel if your inner voice spoke to you with compassionate self-talk? Do you think it would improve the quality of your life?”
Jenny thought for a moment, “It would feel better than being told over and over that I can’t do anything right. I’ve been trying to exchange the negative self-talk for positive and when I am able to do it I start feeling more peaceful.”
“Do you think you are important to God? How does He see you?”
“Yes, I guess I am important to Him. I am His child. I know I’m loved by Him,” Jenny responded.
“If you are His child and He loves you, how do you think He feels when you talk down to yourself and berate yourself?”
“I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I know if I say something like that in front of my mother she comes unglued. I suppose God does too.”
“Isn’t it time for us to stop thinking that we aren’t important to God and see just how important we are to Him. Isn’t it time to stop being negative in our thoughts, words, and actions. In Jeremiah 29:11 AMP it says, ‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ God wants us to prosper and fulfill the destiny he has given us, but we can’t if we are stuck in negative self-talk. It’s time for us to change how we see things, our beliefs and how we talk. It’s time to change our negative to positive.”
“The Buddhist talk about balance,” Jenny said.
Walking In Balance
“Walking in God’s favor is also walking in balance. When you are in balance, you can see things with clarity. When you are out of balance your vision and perception become clouded, including how you see yourself. When you beat yourself up and berate yourself you are out of balance. When you compare yourself to someone else, you are out of balance. When you walk in God’s favor and in His love you are in balance. Walking in God’s favor is the ability to receive God’s promise no matter what is going on. It’s the permission to ask, seek, and knock and know that God is going to answer with a yes (2 Cor 1:20)”
“How do I get back into balance?” Jenny asked.
Getting Back Into Balance
“It takes practice. You start with the truth that God is with you, for you and that He has a plan for you. When you say, “I can’t do something, let’s say about your job, is that the truth?”
“If you say you aren’t good enough, is that the truth?”
“It takes practice, just like anything else. When you learned to ride a bike did you just hop on and ride the first time?”
“There is a very important part of this self-talk tool. It is a commitment. You have to be willing to learn something new. You must be willing to put forth the effort because it’s not always going to be easy. Jenny, how did you do with the listening assignment from last time?”
“I did okay for a few days then I got busy and forgot about it.”
“It is a difficult assignment, mainly, because you’ve lived with your negative self-talk for so long that it feels normal and you believe it to be true. In order to change your self-talk, you need to be aware of what you feel on the inside as well as what is happening on the outside. Often it feels like our mind is going wherever it wants and we are just along for the ride. You have to make the choice of being in control and not allowing your mind to go wherever it wants. You do that by becoming aware of what you are thinking and how you are feeling. The best thing is to write it down.”
“I was writing my thoughts down then assessing whether they were true or not. Most of the time, they weren’t true. I’d then write out a statement that was true. I also started noticing the feelings that often accompanied the thought. I think I quit doing it when a thought brought up a very negative feeling from my past that made me cry. I stopped because that was very uncomfortable,” Jenny said.
Label The Thought
“Okay, can you still see that scene in your mind?”
Jenny nodded as her eyes began to tear-up again.
“Your negative self-talk is probably making your emotions worse. Is that true?”
“Name the thought. For example, say, ‘That’s a negative thought.” You can also say things like, ‘That wasn’t the truth. The truth is (whatever). When you label it for what it is, it takes the power out of the statement. Does that make sense? Say it out loud so your brain can hear it in your voice.”
Jenny wiped her eyes with a napkin. She started to speak and her voice broke. She cleared her throat and started again. “That is a negative thought and I refuse to think it. I am a good attorney. When Mark cheated on me it was the best thing that could have happened before I married him. His cheating was his problem. His cheating was not my doing or my problem. He didn’t cheat on me because I wasn’t good enough. Actually, I was too good for him.”
She sat back in her chair taking several deep cleansing breaths then looked at Herman.
“Well, how do you feel?” he asked.
“I feel better than I have for a very long time. It’s like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
“And the sparkle is back in your eyes,” he said. “Remember, if and when it tries to come back don’t allow it. As you listen to your thoughts and self-talk, give yourself some compassion, some kindness, especially if you notice you are speaking unkindly to yourself.”