Recently I have been ruminating on the concept of ‘self-compassion’ which I would distinguish from ‘self-pity’. I make this distinction because obviously self-pity conjures negative associations, whereas for me self-compassion intuitively sounds more positive.
That said, I struggle enormously with self-compassion. That’s just the way it is. There’s no doubt that I extend to others a compassion I am unwilling to extend to myself. There’s a plethora of reasons underpinning this anomaly and this is a facet of my personality that I’m discovering is rather dysfunctional.
For me, the knock on effect of this is that I struggle with the compassion of Christ. It is simply very difficult for me to accept His compassion. I know His compassion in my brain, but not in my heart.
The entire Gospel accounts convey a heart bursting with compassion for the sons of men. We see great swells of emotion emanating from our saviour in the face of our suffering; as a mother for a child.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that the entire Gospel may be encompassed within Matthew 9:36:
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
And yet I struggle.
I was intrigued to read an article in Psychology Today on the beneficial impact of self-compassion:
The power of self-compassion is not just an idea – it’s very real and actually manifests in our bodies. When we soothe our own pain we are tapping into the mammalian care-giving system. And one important way the care-giving system works is by triggering the release of oxytocin. Research indicates that increased levels of oxytocin strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness,and facilitates the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. Oxytocin is released in a variety of social situations, including when a mother breastfeeds her child, when parents interact with their young children, or when someone gives or receives a soft, tender caress. Because thoughts and emotions have the same effect on our bodies whether they’re directed to ourselves or to others, this research suggests that self-compassion may be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin.
When we soothe our painful feelings with the healing balm of self-compassion, not only are we changing our mental and emotional experience, we’re also changing our body chemistry. An effective aspect of self-compassion practice, therefore, is to tap into our body’s self-healing system through physical sensations.
I often wonder if those enabled to deeply appreciate the compassion of Christ for their own souls, would more readily have self-compassion. This makes for logical sense in my mind.
I would suspect that for those who can feel the compassion of Christ experience all of the physiological benefits described above.
I try to self-convince that if Christ can have compassion and forgiveness for me, then surely I can have the same approach for myself.
But it doesn’t work. Something is broken.
Tags: Christian Life