Sonia and I have frequently crossed paths in the Lutheran neighborhood. She introduced me to the Saint who manages this website for me. Part of my self-care a few years ago was to take advantage of Sonia’s creative coaching. Enjoy this week’s food for thought.
The gift of self-compassion
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Self-love? Self-compassion? Aren’t those right up there with pride and vanity? And pretty much equivalent to selfishness and narcissism?
I’m not sure anyone actually said that to me in so many words as I moved through childhood and into adulthood. But I surely got the message that Luke’s verse meant I should love God first, love others—and then if there was anything left over, I could love myself. And, of course, there often wasn’t anything left over.
Now I see that the last five words of that verse are power-packed and important. And that’s not to take away from the importance of the first 26 words.
The dictionary defines the tiny word “as” in this way: “to the same degree or amount; similarly; equally.” Hmmm, that really turns that tiny phrase around, doesn’t it? It means that we love ourselves—and then we can love our neighbor in that same way, to that same degree, equally. Of course, we know that all this is possible because of the love of God poured out upon us from the beginning.
So back to self-compassion and self-love.
Several years ago my Inner Critic was pretty hard on me, loud, insistent, judgmental. Some of my friends encouraged me to get rid of her—kill her off, as it were. However, the woman who served as my spiritual companion at the time had a different view of the situation. “No,” she wisely told me, “you want to love her. You want to listen to her and understand why she’s being hard on you.”
So I did some journaling with my Inner Critic—and came to see that she was trying to protect me because I was working in an extremely patriarchal work place at the time. My Inner Critic was worried about me holding my own and surviving. She had her own ideas of how I should conduct myself. Once I knew that, when I heard her voice in my head, I could simply say, “I hear you. I love you. But I’ve got this.” Gradually that voice quieted down, and in time, became more accepting. That doesn’t mean she can’t get up in my face if she thinks I need protection. So I want to keep her around; I never know when I’ll need her!
That experience began my journey into understanding and practicing self-love, self-care and self-compassion. I came to it a little late in life. But it’s never too late to learn new lessons. And what I know now is that when I can love, accept and forgive myself, I’m far more open and loving to others. When I can show the same compassion to myself that I’ve always shown to others, I can be even more present to others whose paths cross mine.
In my practice as a life coach, I hear so many stories similar to my experience—women (and men, too) not believing it’s okay to love and care for themselves—needing encouragement or even permission to engage in self-compassion and self-love.
We are all wounded and broken in one way or another (many of us in more than one way). We’ve heard it said that hurting people hurt others. Yes, sadly, we do. And loving, compassionate people love others—and attract love back to themselves. That’s also true.
So best we tend to our wounds, getting the healing care we need from whatever resources we can. Best we engage in self-love, self-care and self-compassion. That’s a choice you and I can make—a healthy and life-giving choice, a choice that will add more light and love to the world. A choice that allows God’s love to pour into and through us, radiating far and wide. And doesn’t the world need more of that?
Sonia C. Solomonson
Solomonson is a life coach with Way2Grow Coaching and posts daily blogs on www.way2growcoaching.com