I thought I would do something completely different for the blog during the month of July. Instead of answering a reader’s question, I wanted to ask a few questions of my own.
I have asked a few different individuals to guest blog their experience in a destructive marriage on how they stayed well, how they left well, and how they decided to work on reconciling their marriage and what it took to rebuild in a healthy way. You will read their own words in the weeks to follow.
This week I asked Kim Fredrickson, counselor and author of the new book, Give Yourself A Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend a few questions about how to develop greater compassion towards our own selves.
My questions are in bold, Kim’s answers are in italics.
Kim, what prompted you to write a book about self-compassion?
As I was looking for books on this theme for my clients, I couldn’t find any written from a Biblical perspective. I thought, how could there be nothing written about self-compassion from a faith perspective? If anyone should write about this it is believers.
God is an overflowing source of love, compassion and grace to those who are suffering…which is everyone created to some extent. He wants us to spread that love, grace and kindness to ourselves, and out of that flows to others. For some reason, in the Christian world, little is taught how to show the same type of compassion to ourselves that we readily show to others.
What is self-compassion and why is it important?
Self-compassion is having the same concern for our own pain and welfare as we would have for someone else’s. Out of self-compassion flow self-care and protection from harm.
However, 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.
Self-compassion is a balance of truth (Yes, I made a mistake) with grace (I have worth and value, and I will address this mistake directly). Self-compassion is absolutely essential for healthy, balanced living. It provides huge benefits including emotional resiliency, stress reduction, contentment, and healthier relationships. Without it we are vulnerable to the opinions of others and find it difficult to deal with and let go of our mistakes.
It is tough enough to go through a difficult situation, especially when we think we had a part in creating it. It is another kind of torture to never be able to let go of self-criticism and blame.
Self-compassion increases resilience and self-worth, aids in stress reduction, and helps us recover from painful experiences.
Lack of self-compassion is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of resilience, inability to forgive one’s self and problems in relationships.
Self-compassion gives you a friend to go through life with, rather than an internal critic or bully.
Some people fear self-compassion because they equate it with self-pity, as looking at oneself as a pathetic and sorry excuse for a person. That isn’t self-compassion; it is self-disdain.
Self-compassion is looking at our humanness and our situation with empathy, concern, and kindness. Self-compassion is also pausing to look back and feel compassion for the difficult times you’ve been through.
Life is hard even in the best of families or situations. No one can stop sin; hardships; the effects of mental illness, abuse, or neglect; or the effects of living in a busy, mixed-up world.
Sometimes I think people fear if we’re too easy on ourselves when we mess up, then we’ll just go down the tubes and sin more. Is that true?
While I can understand that concern, the opposite is actually true. When we don’t have self-compassion (and instead carry a lot of self-contempt and self-criticism), we feel a lot of deep hurt and shame.
These feelings are so painful that we can rarely tolerate them for long. We push them down, but eventually they come up—and usually with a fury. When we are in this state of emotional pain without a way to process these feelings, we will do anything to not feel them. This is when we are most likely to sin or act out our pain through negative behaviors and addictions.
Self-compassion doesn’t take away the sin, the mistake, or the need to change. It soothes the hurt and self-contempt. This soothing makes us less likely to act out our pain through our behaviors. (tweet that)
You write that if we don’t have a loving, compassionate relationship with ourselves, we fall into two camps regarding handling the mistakes we make in life. Please explain.
The two camps are Narcissism or Self-Contempt.
If our mistakes as children were not met in a healthy way with both grace and truth, we will experience great pain when we see a mistake we’ve made, or when someone else points out a mistake we’ve made.
This is because we have not developed a way to internally to accept our humanness and resolve the incident. We tend to either say we did nothing wrong at all and it was all the other person’s fault (narcissism), or say we are the worst person in the world and we don’t deserve to be forgiven (shame and self-contempt).
This happens because we never learned how to forgive ourselves for our part in the situation. This lack of self-compassion causes significant problems in our relationships.
This often leads to difficulty resolving the normal problems that happen in every relationship. In an attempt to not experience pain, we come up with every reason possible to not see or own up to the mistake we made.
I know my readers experience a lot of pain from their destructive marriage, but I also know that they can be pretty hard on themselves. What would be some first steps someone can take to build more self-compassion?
There are lots of ways I share in my book…but here’s a few:
Realize it is a process. Just considering the possibility of treating yourself with compassion is a great first step.
Second, notice the way you talk to yourself. We can’t change what we aren’t aware of. You may be surprised by how much time you spend saying negative things to yourself. When you see yourself doing that, stop. Instead start to talk to yourself in a new, more compassionate way.
Say simple things to yourself that empathize with what a hard time you’re having. For example, “This is a really hard relationship for me to be in”.
Or, “I feel pain in this relationship, I feel worn down, It is hard to deal with put downs day in and day out, It is hard to try so hard to please him, and never succeed, in his eyes.”
Can you give us a few more examples? Women beat themselves for not being able to stand up for themself, for not having the godly response that they wished they did, or for not being able to earn enough money to be financially independent. What could a woman say to herself that would build self-compassion?
OK here are a few thoughts:
For not standing up for herself a woman could say-
I feel bad for not standing up for myself when I know I should.
On the one hand I beat myself up for this…on the other hand it is amazing that I’m even able to hang in here at all. There is so much I’m doing right (list what you are doing right).
Most people would never be able to keep going. Raising kids, working some, taking care of the home, making meals sometimes, all while handling the emotional strain and devastation that comes from living in an emotionally abusive environment.
For not being able to earn enough money-
I really regret not being able to earn enough money so that I have more choices. That is a really hard place to be. I never chose my job thinking I would have to be self-supporting. The job I pursued was meant to be a supplement to the life my husband and I were building. I had no way of knowing I would be in the position to have to be 100% self-sufficient.
But since that is the way it is now, I’m going to think about what steps I could take to start to earn more money? Go back to school, apply for a different job? Take some on-line training?
For not feeling like she is doing enough-
Yes, it feels really bad walking around every day feeling I’m not good enough, no matter what I do but it’s never enough. That is a really painful place to be.
Sometimes I don’t think I realize how hard that is on me. On the other hand there is so much I am doing and doing right. I feel good about the way I parent my kids, how I take care of our home, the relationships I have with my friends. These are the things I do well even if he doesn’t appreciate them.
No one does everything right. I’m going to think about one area that I would like to do better in. I would feel better if I was putting more effort into this area of my marriage (home).
For dealing with a moral failure or not handling things in a godly way-
I’m embarrassed that I lost my temper, had an affair (however your failed), it only made things worse. It’s hard to feel like even though I am a committed Christian, even though I love God, I still don’t always do the right thing.
I’m not proud of myself but I can still be compassionate towards myself. The reality it is incredibly hard to do things just right when you are under enormous pressure. It is very hard to keep your wits about you when you have to fend off so much negativity and I have to realize I am human and have limitations.
I’m in the position where I have to deal with so many painful and difficult things all at the same time, I don’t always do it all very well. But I can learn from this mistake so I don’t repeat it.
Kim is there anything else a woman in a destructive relationship can do to build more self-compassion?
Here are two more things:
Make time to do things that are calming and soothing to you…stretching, exercise, reading, walking in nature, doing your favorite hobby, time with affirming friends…whatever you have noticed brings you encouragement and comfort.
Consider the possibility that what he thinks is different than what you think.
Start thinking inside and say to yourself,
I know this is what he thinks, but what do I think?
I know he says that _______________, but I think ______________.
By doing this you might start to realize that you are smarter and stronger than you thought you were.
Friends, what was your biggest ah-ha moment from reading Kim’s words? What can you start to do differently today to give yourself a break?
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This was great. I so needed to hear that encouragement right now living in a destructive marriage and trying to work out what to do.
Beth…so glad this was helpful. Keep speaking words of compassion and encouragement to yourself.
~ Kim Fredrickson, MFT
Wow, Kim. Sheer wisdom.
I’m off to buy the book.
Thanks, Leslie, for introducing us to this perceptive woman! I always appreciate getting to know other counselors … a must-have to maintain our own healthy perspective as we work with others.
Blessings to you both …
So glad this was helpful. The more we can spread the word about the power of self-compassion, integrated with our faith, the better! Blessings to you as well.
~ Kim Fredrickson, MFT
This is so wonderful!! Thanks for sharing!!! I was fortunate to grow up in a home that nurtured that part of me rather than destroying it. That gave me some fortitude for my abusive marriage–it took longer before my marriage had this effect on me, and I do not believe it ran as deeply as it otherwise would have before I realized I had some work to do. I am very grateful to my parents for this gift!!!
A question I have: Is this something that would be helpful for the abusive party? I am always a little afraid of being ‘too caring’ with him because he plays the victim card really well and then does not address himself. But some of what I read here definitely is present in him. Particularly the two camps of Narcissism and Self Contempt and what causes them. I see that he would absolutely have experienced the cause as a child and has developed the Narcissism…… So I guess my question is this: How would you go about helping an abuser deal with this without falling into the victim mentality?
Survivor…Thanks so much for this wonderful question. First, it is so good to hear that you have a self-compassionate place inside. Keep nurturing and being compassionate with yourself.
Yes…I believe that being compassionate with yourself is important for the abuser as well…with perhaps a special focus. Chapter two in my book contains a lengthy story about a man who is controlling of others, yet who feels that “he” is the one being taken advantage of. I know this probably feels familiar…
The abuser is very wounded inside, and is highly sensitive to each and every response or non-response from others…because pain and self-contempt that is already inside gets triggered. If he /she could begin to slowly show compassion to the hurt places inside then the abuser would not be as reactive and controlling. So I would agree that this material would be very helpful and is an important part of the healing needed inside.
Of course the question is…do I share it? How do I share it? How do I share it just right so the abusive party gets it? Here’s the answer you already know…there is no perfect way to share it – don’t put pressure on yourself to have just the right words, or blame yourself if the abusive party doesn’t respond positively.
I would say to get this material for yourself, and nurture your own heart with compassion for the difficult situation you are in. You can have it available and pray that God will present an opportunity if the timing is right. You know your own situation the best.
I so appreciate your question and taking the time to ask it. Blessings to you and all the readers. Nurture your heart and turn toward yourself with compassion and grace.
~ Kim Fredrickson, MFT
Thanks Kim! I purchased your book and am looking forward to reading it!!! I spoke with my counselor and he believes it would be helpful for H to read it as well. I feel like my situation is complicated by the fact that H says that he wants to change, is willing to work hard, goes to counseling, etc, but we still see no evidence of change. I believe that he really wants change, but at this point, he appears to want to BE CHANGED and there seems to be something blocking his ability to comprehend the need to just CHANGE. He still blames others for his lack of change–even going so far as to be angry with God for not changing him when he asks Him to……
I guess this is why I am afraid he will revert to the victim mentality when presented with this idea–because it would give him someone else to blame for why he is the way he is……
Thanks so much Survivor…love your input. In chapter 2 I talk about the difference between fake repentance vs true repentance. This might help make this dilemma more clear.
Also, a lot of people struggle with where they see problems/change coming from. Does it come from the outside (other people cause things and I am powerless) or from the inside (I may or may not have caused this situation, but it is up to me (clinging to God) to change things.
In the literature this is called “Locus of Control”
Hope this helps…you go girl in caring for yourself! ~ Kim
Survivor, I would think that you can’t help them…they have to help themselves.
Well, at least in my marriage that’s the case.
I too recognized my husband in some of the words written here today…self contempt and narc behavior….but I already know that if I say anything, it won’t do any good, he doesn’t listen to me, and that just sets me up for extreme frustration down the road.
These men have to WANT to stop their destructive behaviors and from what I’ve experienced, they would rather blame others for the pain they are in, because it’s easier that way. 🙂
Lonely wife, you sum it up very well. It gets really confusing when they learn all the right words through counseling, but still don’t really change. My H goes to counseling, etc etc etc and claims to want to change, but when he doesn’t, he still blames others for his lack of change! How can they not hear how dumb they sound!!????!!!!!
[…] Self Compassion Shows Strength – Not Weakness […]
I found it helpful that I COULD make a mistake and be able to forgive myself and go on. This may seem pretty basic, but listening to the inner conversation I have been having makes me aware of what’s going on internally. Just typing this I heaved a big sigh and was able to relax a huge pile of tensions. I have been aiming for perfection and falling short.
Hi Debra…I thought I replied to your comment before…but I don’t see it here. It is wonderful that you are aware of the conversations that are going on inside…most people aren’t. How wonderful that you were able to turn toward yourself with forgiveness and compassion. Perfection isn’t possible…being valuable imperfect person is! Blessings, Kim
I agree with Debra, how she says ‘ she found she could make a mistake and then forgive herself’
Living with an abuser for so many years I found myself constantly condemning myself, just as he did. One day I decided it wasn’t necessary anymore. When I made a mistake it was only a mistake and I could repent, look for a solution to turn it around and move on. In areas in my past where there were larger mistakes like not leaving my abusive situation sooner- my internal voice would say to me ‘if you could, you would have’ until one day I chose to accept those words deeply and move on. No more condemnation for me. I know I am loved and accepted no matter what I do and knowing that allows me to just ‘be’.
Robin….thanks so much for sharing your transformation over time….beautiful! ~ Kim
Lonely Wife…it does my heart good to know that these words have been such a help to you. Your self-awareness is a gift – most of us aren’t aware of our internal dialogue. It is so great that once you noticed what was going on inside, you spoke to yourself with grace and compassion. Wonderful!
~ Kim Fredrickson, MFT
Thank you Kim for your wonderful answers and your book (–I love how you ground all your advice in Scripture! Excellent!!!) and thank you Leslie for the questions and the structuring which drew out all these great insights. . . . .What was your biggest ah-ha moment from reading Kim’s words? What can you start to do differently today to give yourself a break?
The biggest ah-ha moment for me was that I need to give myself the caring support I would easily give any other person. Self-compassion is really, really hard stuff, at least for me! Growing up everything was my fault and I internalized it, in a BIG way. I know compassion will cure more issues than condemnation and the more I live, the more I discover the importance of self-compassion, yet the more elusive it seems. Why is it so hard to give myself the caring support I would give another who is struggling? Like it says in Colossians, we are to wrap ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, et. al. I always draw crickets with my counselor on these questions she asks (-its constant questions with her):
I am afraid to stop judging myself because. . . . . .
I insist on blaming myself because. . . . . .
I like internalizing my abuser (Mother; x-m ex-mother) because. . . .
I criticize, condemn and complain about myself to myself because. . . . .
I’m afraid to love myself because. . . .
. . . I just sit numb. . . Thinking, I simply do not know why. It is totally irrational as an adult. I’ll think about how in Corinthians God’s comfort is ever available to me in an unqualified way, but why does it often feel so hard to access? Why are the voices within me so brutal towards myself? Is there some part of me that believes that self-criticism is helpful? I certainly hope not!!! Is it? I don’t see how. How is it that I can easily extend compassion to others, but cannot do so for myself? . . . . .My counselor says we need to know why because the why exposed to the light dissolves its power but, since I have no answers to many of the questions and just the crickets and no real idea, I am attempting to break the self-criticizing habits by my own intervention. . . So, when I catch myself starting to criticize myself, I say: Aleea, just really relax, relax and allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. Then I pray that my Lord God will μετασχηματίσει (will transform) me in every situation I let go to Him. . . . . You know what? It doesn’t work so well right now (maybe I do have to understand why) but I can clearly see that self-compassion is way better than self-esteem because self-esteem only thrives when things are good and leads to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about myself. So, self-esteem is associated with relatively unstable feelings of self-worth, since self-esteem tends to be diminished whenever things don’t turn out as well as I desire. On the other hand, because compassion can be extended to me in both good times and bad, the feelings of self-worth seem to remain steadier over time as long as I am self-compassionate (-When I have been able to do it.)
Also, for me, -and I don’t do it all the time- but I am on guard against it, . . . .Anyway, it makes a huge difference when I shift from should (shaming, damning, condemning) up to ought, up to want, then up to “I choose” (then try to live in that place of “I choose/ I like”)! For example: I see someone that needs help:
“I should help her”
“I ought to help her”
“I want to help her”
“I choose to help her, I like helping her!”
I choose to help this elderly women across the street; get groceries; give her rides, etc!!! I’m excited to help her. I try to operate from there, from that place. When I do, I live in much closer alignment with Christ and with God because I choose to give myself freedom. I am not shoulding (shaming) myself. It’s best if we have a great respect and understanding of true freedom in Christ!!! -But those are rare moments for me but I certainly see the value of striving to live from that place. As everybody knows, the thing that causes set-backs is the sheer pace of life coming at you like a freight train. Still, my goal is to be a self-compassionate. Compassionately accept imperfection, no longer need to engage in unhealthy behaviors to protect my ego. . . . I got a sweet lecture from my counselor Monday of this week that: when one is living as her real self, she receives the Lord’s guidance that directs her on how to take actions that benefit others as well as herself. This means she doesn’t sacrifice her own needs for another, but she doesn’t disregard those of others so she might benefit herself, either. Authentic, real Christianity. Living as your real self means constantly creating win-win solutions. . . .Or as Leslie said back when she mentioned the Karpman triangle (in the comments), all the roles are dysfunctional. Win-win is staying out of any of the roles. Victims put others above themselves, an aggressor or persecutor, she puts herself above others; a rescuer makes the “victim” helpless and co-dependent. We escape the Triangle by putting God above people (-it is amazing how that is always the answer!) and focus ourselves, and our behavior, more on Him than on what people like. What we discover then is that we find safety with God and become more authentic (-really, really real).
I appreciate Kim’s words here, & I have a concern I need addressed. I suffered for over two decades from various abuses in my marriage. Church leadership instructed me to submit, try harder, fix husband meals when he came home late, & see to his sexual needs, which were assumed were his love language. During the time attending & serving in that church, I heard numerous messages that psychology isn’t Biblical & teaches us to be self-centered. I need Leslie or Kim to address the concern that self-compassion, self-care, standing up for self, etc. are not selfish. Bridge that gap for me. Provide me with Biblical truth that refutes that self-compassion, self-protection, etc. are appropriate & not selfish or self-centered.
I’m sure Kim will chime in here but let me give you my quick thoughts. You may question whether self-compassion is biblical but do you ever question whether self-condemnation is biblical? Romans 8:1 says, There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Including condemnation for your own self. When Peter betrayed Christ he felt remorse, but in his self-examination he developed humility and gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness. When Judas messed up and betrayed Christ, his self-condemnation drove him to commit suicide. Which is more biblical? When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he is assuming a normal degree of appropriate self love that would extend kindness, compassion and care to others as we would “naturally” towards oneself. Can that morph into self centeredness? Of course, just as healthy sex can morph into perversion. What God has created as good can be twisted into evil. Remember, Jesus describes Satan as a liar and deceiver but he also accuses the children of God (John 8). Therefore when we have accusing voices in our head, condemning voices in our head, I don’t think that is from the Holy Spirit but from the evil one and we should reject it promptly. Also Proverbs is full of warnings about the power of a word and reckless words pierce like a sword. When we are constantly self-critical we create the very same bodily response (fight or flight), internally as would happen when someone else is constantly critical of us. That compromises our immune system and causes other problems which is not being a good stewards of our body or health. Lastly, Paul tells us to “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” If we are to do this for one another, why wouldn’t we also do this for ourselves? Remember self-compassion does not mean self-indulgence or self-pity. It is accepting responsibility for our failure, learning from it, but not beating ourselves up for it as if we should be better than that. In fact, that kind of thinking is nothing more than wounded pride. We are disappointed that we aren’t more perfect. Which we aren’t. Hope that helps.
Michelle…thanks so much for your question. My guess is that many others have the same question. Leslie, thanks so much for your excellent sharing of Scripture and Biblical principles in response to Michelle’s question.
Michelle…I so appreciate the way in which you asked this question. You are truly wanting to understand this new idea of self-compassion in light of what you have been taught. I salute you for wanting to be very clear about this. I can tell that you care deeply about new information being Biblically correct, which I absolutely agree with.
It breaks my heart that you and so many others have been taught that self-compassion, self-care and self-protection are perhaps unbiblical. I think this can come from a lack of knowledge, and also fear that if we treat ourselves with kindness that we’ll get out of control. To be honest, lack of compassion for ourselves makes us much more likely to sin. I agree with what Leslie shared as far as the Biblical foundation for our care of self, which includes self-compassion and self-protection.
I am blessed to be married to my husband Dave, who is a Biblical Scholar (Ph.D. Biblical Studies) and Seminary Professor. I had him read my book cover to cover and check the accuracy of my use of Scripture. Ask any of his students…he is a stickler for accuracy! He even included a footnote addressing Biblical stewardship of ourselves and self-protection at the end of chapter 8.
I so appreciate your love of the Bible and your deep desire that anything you learn is held up to it’s light of accuracy. I completely agree. Thanks for being brave to ask this question. Many Blessings, Kim
Hi Michelle, I’m a newbie here and I really liked your question about biblical truth refuting that self compassion, self protection etc. are appropriate and not selfish. This made me think of the many times that Jesus left the crowds to take time for Himself and pray, and rest. He took care of Himself first sometimes before ministering to others and also after ministering to others. I cannot give what I don’t have, if my own cup is empty from not caring for myself, what will I have to offer to others? When I get hungry I get crabby because my blood sugar drops and my thinking goes awry, this is the time to meet my bodies need for food, then I have energy and wherewithal to attend to others! Jesus took care of himself often so that He was filled up! He escaped many times quietly when He knew traps were being set to harm him! He ate, He drank and cared for Himself! He gave people choices and let them make their choice without trying to convince them of the Truth… He knew His limits and He respected those limits with honor and reverence! He was not performance based in meeting the needs of others, He did only what He saw the Father do and He made sure His vessel was cared for! I hope this makes sense…
Just breathing and trusting
Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and the many ways you are embracing being compassionate with yourself. There are many, very valid reasons why we have difficulty being compassionate with ourselves. Learning why, as well as finding compassionate words you can say to yourself in the moment makes such a difference.
For now…see how this sounds, “I’m so glad that a part of me is reaching out to myself with compassion. I am just learning, so it’s normal for me to be kind toward myself sometimes, and not other times. What matters is that I want to become a compassionate friend to myself…and I can learn a little at a time”.
Blessings to you in this most valuable goal,
Kim Fredrickson, MFT
“I’m so glad that a part of me is reaching out to myself with compassion. I am just learning, so it’s normal for me to be kind toward myself sometimes, and not other times. What matters is that I want to become a compassionate friend to myself…and I can learn a little at a time”.
. . . .Excellent, I read that into my voice recorder and listened to it until I now have it memorized and ready for the next times. I also created some variants of that for issues I just know will come up.
I’m also praying and will continue to pray for you, your health and your ministry. I just love praying for people. (I don’t know why but the good thing is that I know it is not because “I Should.”) . . . .Oh, and Jesus tells us to pray even for our enemies. That’s good practice for our enemy within!!! I look forward to getting and reading your book! . . . .I think it could be that all wounds come from God’s love not being adequately applied to all the various areas of our lives. To love God is to Love like God, including ourselves. Easy to say, always easy to say. . . .neurologically. . . .well. . .
Thank you for putting into words that self compassion comes a little at a time.
I grew up believing that everything was my fault. I grew up believing that I was defective. If someone was angry, I took their anger on that I was responsible. I also believed that someone wh was angry would abandon me. So I lived in panic and desperation. I would do anything so I wouldn’t be left. This survival skill is weaved into my marriage which is in a very bad state.
I feel incredibly sad for the little Betsy in me that is sacred, confused, full of shame, and wandering around in an adults body trying to figure out how to love and nurture myself, when my husband has made it clear that he has emotionally left our marriage. He has made it clear that the state of our marriage is my fault and the result of my behavior, thus the consequence, as he states.
What has happened for me is the little Betsy is FREAKING OUT INSIDE and has taken all the blame, just like I did growing up.
Thanks Aleea…I love how you found words that “go in” and recorded them for yourself in order to have a new kinder response all ready! Excellent!
Thanks too for your prayers for my health and ministry. It helps me so…
I love the idea of praying for the critic inside…I would say not an enemy, but one who hasn’t known any other way to respond until now 🙂
-And I love your distinction between enemy and critic! That makes so much sense to me because it softens things even more (reframing). Also, you say “. . . one who hasn’t known any other way to respond until now. . . ” . . . hmmm, that implies one who is capable, as the New Testament says, of coming to a new awareness, a new understanding, a metanoia (μετάνοια). –Now, that speaks to me!!! Whatever defense we use, we’re using it because we don’t yet know a better one (-like really, truly guarding our hearts!). . . .Also, you can have a constructive critic vs. an enemy that only, always is being harsh, negative and hateful so why give it even more power by labeling it as an enemy! . . . Thank you so much. This knowledge is so valuable.
This is very helpful Aleea; thank you!
Christ’s love to you, Lisa! So glad you’re on the journey!
Thank you so much Kim and Leslie for this timely posting! This is exactly what I needed to hear. I will be buying your book and am so looking forward to reading your insights. An aha moment for me was the section about the two camps we settle in when we make a mistake – Narcissism and Self Contempt. What a wonderful description! That’s me. As a child I was not shown grace and truth when I made a mistake, so I developed an extremely harsh inner critic.
Self compassion is something that I don’t think I have understood very well. Somehow I have not been able to extend the grace and forgiveness to myself that I have given to others. I think I have a deep feeling that it is unchristian to be kind to myself, and to remove myself from a damaging situation. I have believed that my relationship and my husband must be ALL bad, in order to justify my leaving; that if he still claims to want reconciliation (with no inner change) that I cannot give myself permission to choose emotional peace and safety. This has left me in the impossible situation of knowing that I cannot live with this man, while at the same time being unable to give myself permission to really let go.
Thank you. I will be returning to this valuable thread again.
TrustingHim…thanks so much for taking the time to share with us. I’m so glad that what was shared resonated in your heart. You are precious and valuable, and deserve to be treated with kindness…from others and yourself. I pray that these new truths will go deep inside. Many Blessings, Kim
Thanks for this Leslie and Kim! I am newly out of my abusive relationship and this post is soothing to the soul. We do need to be a friend to our selves!!!
I remember a counsellor years ago telling me to pretend that I walked into a room and saw myself sitting on the couch. And then she asked me what I would tell her. When I read your post that is what I thought of. I remember thinking that I would be encouraging and compassionate to her!!
Aleea, I love your posts and how you show us your inner self.
I too had an abusive mom but my sisters and I were scared to put words to what happened to us and acknowledge what our experiences were. When you are young it is all you know and I remember my sister defending her & accusing my dad, who grew up with an anusive older brother. I clearly saw Dad saw as someone who was about standing up against evil & doing what is good and right.
Thanks so much for your comments. I’m so glad your response now is to be encouraging and compassionate with yourself…so wonderful! ~ Kim
Leonie, I like that analogy about asking what you would say to a patient. We would never start criticizing, condemning and damning our patient, yet we do it to ourselves. Unbelieveable! Moreover, it is also astounding, just astounding, the damage done in raising children, Wow. . . .For me, I know habitually dismissing and devaluing my true emotions and needs caused my brain to adopt unhealthy responses and to strongly discount much of the positive information about myself that was/is coming in. –If we can just put our judging gavel/ mallet to the side and just observe, I believe this works exactly like love does: You can’t force love, you can’t force this. You can only become aware of it and that happens only when my judging gavel/ mallet is not in my hand. . . . Once aware, we can rewrite the script and dwell on the true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, in other words, deliberately and systematically change. If you look at any of the research on neuro-plasticity/ neural pathways (Jeffrey Schwartz M.D., Rebecca Gladding M.D. et. al.) the mind actually has massive causal effects on the functioning of the brain. In other words, they teach we can not only change the way we think, feel and behave through conscious effort, but we can also change the programming and chemistry of our brain. That is the message from the Scriptures too: The fact that you can change your brain with your mind means that your real self ψυχήδιανοίᾳ ἐγκράτειαν (your mind, soul self) is independent from your body. The mind is more than the brain. You’re a soul that currently has a body!!! Once inside eternity, I am certain I am going to be so blown away at the smallness of my faith.
Aleea, this is a testament to how fearfully and wonderfully made we are and that because of God’s marvellous creation there is hope!
So above we had: For now…see how this sounds, “I’m so glad that a part of me is reaching out to myself with compassion. I am just learning, so it’s normal for me to be kind toward myself sometimes, and not other times. What matters is that I want to become a compassionate friend to myself…and I can learn a little at a time”.
So in counseling this week, out comes my memorized self-talk, see our discussion above (I see Dr. Cheryl Meier. . .RE: Unbreakable Bonds, her father is Dr. Paul Meier, etc.) -Anyway, the “I’m so glad that a part of me is reaching out to myself with compassion (-that she said was very good). The: I am just learning, so it’s normal for me to be kind toward myself sometimes, and not other times (-she said that is how my mother could abuse me and I could do the same to myself by justifying abuse in basically saying “I’m doing the best I can” . . .She said, my mother justified/ justifies abuse because what matters (in her mind) is that she wants to think she really loves me so just “forgives” herself that she is broken in this way. In others works, she is doing her best to fix it “doing the best she can”. –But in reality it is not okay, not even once. . . . . Anyway, I assume (all my thoughts now) her issue is that it is just too easy to say “I’m doing the best I can” and that just becomes our excuse to stay broken. . . . Anyway, we didn’t go back to that because we were in the middle of a huge “discussion” over τέλειοι (be ye perfect). . . . and Dr. Meier explaining to me that I have so internalized my mother that I am in the service of her (like an employee) even though I very rarely see her. . . . Anyway, SO here is my question: Would you modify that self-talk statement or do you still like it as is? -Is it really tough knowing when we are just using “I am just learning” as self-enabling? -What are the signs (tells)? Can I know?
Thanks so much for sharing and putting your wondering out there. It sounds like you received some insights in counseling that are important to ponder.
As far as your question…I would defer to you and your heart. While I can see how the second half of that response might have a different meaning than was intended…you are the only one who could know that. Check with yourself…did you go into the session feeling inside, “This is good, just the words I want to say to myself?” Or did you go in feeling, “Part of this is just right but I don’t think the second part is right?”
I ask because you and the intuition God has given you knows the answer. We as therapists want to help and bring up things to consider, but we are never the authority on what the right wording is. Check with yourself, pray for wisdom, and trust the intuition and precious heart God has given you. ~ Kim
Thank you so much for being so gracious with your time. I think I see what you are saying about trusting our own hearts. Yes, the original words do seem right to me or I would not have memorized them but my heart is divided and Dr. Meier surely knows that. Part of me has absolutely no desire to stay broken or use “I’m doing the best I can” as an excuse. I wouldn’t be spending all that time if I did. That said, I also know part of me is resisting change and getting stuck on things. It is crazy how this works just like love, you can’t force it. You can only become aware and then you have the choice the path that glorifies God or stay an employee of my mother (-be in her service). More than this, as you know, hearts (even good willed ones) can be unreliable if/ when motivated reasoning sets in. I try to guard against that by asking those closest to me for feedback (-but they can have motivated reasoning themselves!) Anyway, yes, I thought the wording was right because I am rarely if ever moved with compassion when it comes to myself.
“. . . the intuition God has given you knows the answer. . . . pray for wisdom, and trust the intuition and precious heart God has given you.” -That’s a beautiful statement and really speaks to me. I’ll memorize that too! . . . .Oh, I was seriously praying for you this morning and I hope you can come back and do more blogs with Leslie in the future!
I agree with Kim – let CHeryl’s comments sit with you, let it marinate, but then decide for yourself. I don’t know Cheryl personally, but one of the things I tell my clients when I work with them is I am not the ultimate authority on you, you are and if you don’t think what I’ve said fits you, feel free to disagree and talk it through. Sometimes our clients give us too much power to “think” for them, or they’ve been so used to being controlled by others, they allow us to control them. Yes you value our feedback and we give it, but you still have to process the “truth” of it.
“. . . . or they’ve been so used to being controlled by others, they allow us to control them.”
That is so, so true of me. I feel like I have no real “me” when I am in counseling (-or probably anywhere else). It is like I just become Dr. Meier when I am around her. She is always prefacing her statements with “Now, Aleea, please, you don’t have to agree with me.” In fact, it is worse, she told me that when we e-mail back and forth between sessions its like she is talking to herself. I wasn’t allowed to have choice growing up. . . .
. . . In the Greek New Testament, …”a choosing, or choice” is flat out Heresy; (from haireomai, “to choose”) “that which is chosen,” and hence my own “opinion” . . . . “heresies” or “choices” are ranked right up there with crimes, seditions, divisions and schisms in the church. . . . a “heretical person” is one who follows her own “questions,” and is to be avoided. Heresies signify self-chosen doctrines, etc. Cheryl and I deconstructed all that but it still haunts me.
But as an adult, I want to fuse/blend/dissolve myself with the expectations and desires of the Lord Jesus (-that’s what I want). That’s what most of me wants. I want the loudest expectations I have internally to be fused with the Lord God. . . .But all I hear is my mother, yelling at me. Dr. Meier told me I have the choice. . . I can “jump off the cliff” onto the Lord’s train running in the opposite direction from the station I am waiting at for my mother (-according to her I have internalized my mother and stay stuck waiting for her to finally see my worth). I have the choice to join my will with the Lord Gods. I can’t force myself off the cliff; I have to jump off it clean. I assume she would say this works just like love, you can’t force it. You can only become aware and then make a choice. . . . . but God loves us and has a tender Love for us at that! He provides all the grace necessary. So the leap of faith (believing something intangible, unprovable and without empirical evidence) is the way God set it up. A leap of faith made by faith (I know that is circular logic). . . Jump off into Christ’s open arms of love or stay as an employee of my mother with her yelling and condemning and damning me (RE: “the daughter not worth having” et.al.) How is this even a choice, unless I am not rational? But, she is always trying to get me to the “why?” . . . .Why are you waiting for your mother to see your worth? -All the while telling me I do have a choice and she doesn’t need answers, she is only there to facilitate.
. . . Some part of me must like being a victim because. . . Because victims get attention when they are recused. But I don’t want attention, I want love. But my mother taught me no real love exists and even if it did exist I couldn’t handle it. But God can see where my mother is totally blind. God is Love (Dr. Meier did her dissertation on the way people view God -no mystery, like their parents). I’m afraid God is just like my mother? (In the O.T., maybe. . . . but certainly not in the N.T.). . . . I’m getting lost now. . . I hate getting lost in endless questions.
Leslie, thank you for all you do. I’m praying you recover quickly from your poison ivy but even more so for serious strength and wisdom in your ministry. -As a coward, I admire your courageous ways!
I have always been my worst critic. I have never been enough.
I came from a home that lacked respect, compassion, nurturing, and acceptance.. I grew up believing that there was something toxic about me. I coped for years using alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, codependency to ease my pain, confusion, shame, and lack of true self. My family was full if the ISM’s brought on my alcoholism and controlling others through mental manipulation.
I have been dealing with a year of excruciating pain in my marriage. I don’t give myself credit for starting a new job and building a brand new program, maintaining a house, paying my bills( too many of them as I tend to soothe myself with shopping) juggling my children’s schedules, praying, asking God to reveal to me where I need to change, reaching out to Godly women and asking for help, started a new AA meeting for women, all the while having my husband emotionally and spiritually beat me down and punish me. Thank you for reminding me that I am capable to be compassionate towards myself and that God sees me as an incredible and lovable woman. The breakdown of my marriage is not all my fault, which is what I have been believing and shaming myself with for way too long.
I am growing up through this firery trial. My sobbing and wailing to God for help has been a significant blessing to me. No pain No gain. I am feeling freedom
Thanks so much for your feedback. I LOVE the words of truth and grace you are saying to yourself. I’m rejoicing with you in the courageous progress you are making and in the freedom you are experiencing. Keep being kind, gracious and compassionate with yourself. Many Blessings, Kim
I hear an echo of the Lord Himself in self compassion – the voice that condemns us, that is afraid we aren’t measuring up, that we aren’t going to make it through, that the mess is too big, none of that is the Lord. He might nudge us to stop a behavior that is harming us or others and then gently lead us to start doing different things that will lead us in good directions. His voice is gentle and kind and I am relaxing into that more and more.
I realize I was afraid or anxious and wanted to be safe and not alone and those attitudes and motivations were influencing my thoughts.
But God’s voice is so loving and kind; His voice comes from a caring place, He wants to help, lead us away from harmful things toward what is good and when I trust his heart, my heart becomes more quiet. I have a friend whose voice has been gently sharing and living that and it has so encouraged me; I needed to hear that relationally, at a heart level, and my heart is relaxing.
Alene…so wonderful to feel and hear your internal transformation as you respond to yourself with God’s loving, kind and caring voice. I’m celebrating with you…you are on the right path, and you can feel the difference. Yahoo! ~ Kim
After 20 years in emotionally abusive marriage I have found that I care for others above myself. As a Christian I thought I was following Christ’s example of dying to self. However after yet another barrage of verbal abusive tirade from my partner my body and mind shut down from trauma and I now recognise I have got PTSD from staying and trying to make it work because I felt guilty for leaving him, and also because it was biblical thing to stay and I know he loves me still. I found out he has attachment disorder which means he cannot accept responsibility for his behaviour and blames everyone else (ie the children for “misbehaving” etc). He has sabotaged counselling because this is what they do. They CONTROL and manipulate so you feel it’s you. After leaving twice and coming back a third time to give it another chance I feel stupid. Self compassion is so so important for Christianity because we lean towards sacrificing ourselves to the point of dysfunction ! I have to now find money and energy to move out yet again! I pray for women staying in toxic environment to think about what it does to your health (my thyroid shut down from chronic stress). And you can end up with PTSD. I have to learn how to put myself first. This makes me question the scriptures…. I have prayed for my husband to repent for 5 years and now I have to remove myself from harms way.
Oh and I bought the book. Thank you ladies for shining the light. God Bless you
Interesting that u mention PTSD. I came into our marriage with levels of it from my childhood. I have said numerous times to my therapist that I feel my marriage has created a whole new level of PTSD for me.
I have to find a way to get myself back and to build myself up. For now I am choosing to stay in my marriage. I am super excited to start the CORE class and to read Leslie’s book.
This blog and all of the women sharing their lives has given me courage and hope. I know I am not alone. I still struggle with blame, shame, and feeling like the state of my marriage is all my fault( that’s what my husband drills in my head). I am eager for the day when he says something and it will roll right off my heart, because I know that I belong to God.
Back in October my now ex husband “put me on notice” via email. He didn’t have to yell at me that time, I was shaking and crying in response to an email. When I read back the email now, it didn’t appear to be abusive – my close friend described it as measured. That was one of the moments that made me think I was affected by PTSD. I felt abused as though he was there in person and had just yelled at me & pushed me around. That was one of the moments that I realized that I couldn’t stay in the marriage any longer!
Beth..what do u mean by ” put me in notice”?
I just got off the phone with my husband who I haven’t spoken to in 4 days because I have been out of town with my boys. I purposely held back from contacting him due to the state of our marriage and to give us space. He couldn’t wait to get off the phone with me. I immediately panic inside. I am scared to go home..for fear that he will really abandon me and absence did not make his heart grow fonder. I wonder if my panic is all related to old history, and I get it entangeled up in my marriage.
My abusive ex husband was always blowing up at me in rage – he would brew & stew while I was feeling sick inside, knowing what was coming. This would go on for a few days & then he would blow up in rage & anger at me – by then I was a shaking mess. I felt like a basket case for 3 or 4 days and would be sitting at my desk at work with tears in my eyes or crying for the better part of 2 or 3 days – & he blew up at me monthly. He had common themes/topics that he would get upset about when he raged. Sometimes it was because he was upset by me refusing to sell our home & move to another town, other times it was because I had 3 kids fromy 1st marriage, sometimes it was because he wanted my 3 children to live with their dad so we could “work on our issues”….
He said he was going to make it official by putting it in writing, this thing that I was refusing to do, now know I was resisting his abuse by refusing to comply with his demands – now I have been able to see how he was abusing me financially & I refused to be bowled over by his demands.
I am so familiar with that “panic” you feel and think it most likely comes from family of origin issues. Perhaps not. An emotionally neglectful or harmful relationship can have the same results over time. If you are like me, you perhaps felt a combination of responsibility for the feelings of everyone in your family of origin, and emotional abandonment when you had “disappointed” parents or other family members.
When things began to really deteriorate with my husband, his tactic of emotionally abandoning the relationship escalated. He would leave for a business trip and not bother to call for days, even weeks. I felt sick inside during those times and it has literally taken me years to not feel gutted and hollow because of that. I too was afraid that if I withdrew, he would just float away like an un moored boat. And it would be my fault. It is a tactic that the emotionally uncommitted use, and I don’t know if it is conscious or not. I used to try to figure that out. “Is he doing that on purpose?” “Is he unaware of what he is doing?” I would alternately rage inside, holding him accountable, or take on the blame myself because I figured he couldn’t help it. After three years of physical separation I am beginning to see that it doesn’t matter. The affect on me, emotionally and physically is the same.
The problem is that it doesn’t really matter what you do or don’t do. His behavior really isn’t about you. But you feel like it is, hence the panic. The terror that you will be all alone and it is your fault. That is true of me anyway.
Attending to those beliefs that you probably came into the marriage with (it’s your fault, its your responsibility, you are defective in some way, unable to sustain a healthy relationship….) will be the first step to sorting out these painful feelings.
Those are just my thoughts. Blessings.
I just wanted to add. I was recently going through some old journals. I remember the time about 9 years ago when I went on my first trip away with my sister. I’d been married over 20 years then, and I felt so guilty taking that “luxury” without my husband. I felt guilty about everything – taking time for me, using family money for my own holiday, shopping (even for necessities. I was constantly feeling that I was running our family into the brink of ruin simply providing the simple basics for the family). Then a year later, dear friends treated me to a three week holiday away with one of my kids. I had so much fun, and was so relaxed, it was a huge revelation. That, and the fact that my friends actually thought it was a privilege to enjoy a holiday with me, was a big step in my healing. It is vitally important that you find a way to build friendships outside your marriage. God mercifully brought friends into my life who reflected a completely different view of me than I was getting at home. It has taken years and years for me to begin to internalize their loving and compassionate view of me, as I held on to the belief that somehow my husband must know better, since we were intimate partners.
Thank you for sharing. I have been able to do things outside of my marriage Like travel with my sisters, attend conferences, etc. They have come up in heated arguments as a way to hurt me.
Throughout this past year I have had to reach out to a handful of women who have loved me and built me up emotional my and spiritually which is a a blessing. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am without having people carry and walk with me through this. Now I have this blog and a whole new set of insights coming from women who know what I feel.
I can relate to everything u have shared. The way you describe panic is spot on for me. I have worked on this for years in therapy, however not as intense as this past year because the pain of the panic is too much to live with.
My husband comes and goes as he pleases. Rarely says good bye in the morning when he leaves for work, which to me is plain rude. In some ways I think his rudeness is a form of control and punishment.
He told me in therapy 2 weeks ago that he wants me out of his life. He wants no connection with me. He does not want me to ask him about his day or make any plans or decisions for him. Hearing this felt brutal…and I panicked all day. Thankfully I am beginning to gather some of myself back so I eventually handed my husband over to God and prayed for him.
Regardless of my husbands behavior I am praying that I can treat him with kindness, love, patience, respect, all the while maintaining self control, humility, and zipping my lip.
The key for me is to remember that I am not to be blamed. I am not responsible for his behavior. And I do not have the power or right to change him. Only God can do that if he is called upon by my husband
Thank you for your insight and experience.
My heart feels & aches for you, that is so harsh and cold. There is nothing wrong with our bodies, they are giving us messages like PTSD symptoms because you are not safe with your husband. God made us well and when we have symptoms our bodies are telling us we can’t take it any more. I hope after those harsh cold words he will just move out and spare you from having to see him every day.
My husband used to give me terrible messages but he still wanted to “have his cake and eat it too.” Cling to the Lord, he hears and cares and loves you. When the Egyptians were crying out because they could bear no more, God heard their cries and raised up a deliverer for them. God sees and hates what you have to go through at the hands of this man, there is no dignity in staying married to someone who can speak to you like that. What did the therapist say to you? I am sure you were devastated. My husband used to give me the silent treatment especially on weekends when he was off work, and I am so relieved I no longer am subjected to that. My eczema is gone, the pun n my chest is gone & my irritable bowel is no longer irritable – I am still experiencing stress from his bullying through the lawyer and the court but my body has noticed that my home is safe again! Please consider separating from him so your soul & body can rest and get away from such cruelty. I am praying for you.
Thank you for sharing. I have been able to do things outside of my marriage Like travel with my sisters, attend conferences, etc. They have come up in heated arguments as a way to hurt me.
Throughout this past year I have had to reach out to a handful of women who have loved me and built me up emotional my and spiritually which is a a blessing. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am without having people carry and walk with me through this. Now I have this blog and a whole new set of insights coming from women who know what I feel.
Amen, Betsey! My exh didn’t want me to go anywhere without him, but neither did he usually want go, so I missed out on many outings, just to try to keep the peace. What a blessing to now have the freedom to go as I please, even though I don’t have the resources to do all I’d like, (i.e., a tour to Israel). At least I can now go to church as often as I like to serve the Lord and enjoy Christian fellowship as never before. With prayer and Blessings, Sandra
Hi Leslie and Kim.
I am a older woman who is going back to school to get a second Masters in Counseling. I am almost finished. I saw your book offered on another site and just bought three copies for my clients!
Thank you for writing this book!
Teresa, you’re welcome
Teresa you are so welcome! Congratulations for going back to school and all that has involved. Blessings to you as you bless others! ~ Kim
Leslie, I guess I think that too much self-love is unchristian. and that I need to be more humble, realizing there’s no good in myself, only Christ’s goodness living in me by His Holy Spirit.
Too much self-love is not healthy but not enough self-love is also unhealthy. That’s why Paul reminds us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but to have “sober” or a Truthful evaluation of ourselves. I think Sandra that there is good in you. God put it in you at the moment of your creation when you were fearfully and wonderfully made and you were inscribed in His image which is good. Yes sin has tarnished that goodness, but it is still there.
I think the answer to why you couldn’t find any Christian books written on self-compassion or self-forgiveness is because self-love is at the root of the problem of the human condition, sin. I wish you would have said something about the transforming power of the gospel in this article. Instead all we received was a plethora of self-help jargon which minimizes sin and promotes the love of self. I do appreciate your care and compassion for helping folks who beat themselves up unnecessarily over mistakes, but telling yourself how valuable and how worthy you are is not the biblical answer. The answer is the person of Jesus Christ himself and his work on the cross which, when we come by faith in him, begins to eradicate the love of self in our hearts and promises to make us holy some day. Look to Jesus when you feel worthless, not in the mirror.
Thanks for your comment. I’m off to the doctor and some meetings. I want to give a thoughtful and kind response to your comment, and will respond back later today. ~ Kim
Bill I don’t think the gospel of Christ negates that we are precious and valuable as his creatures and the very fact that Christ died for us is evidence of that. I think the gospel calls us to remind ourselves of that truth over and over and over again because the world, the flesh, and our enemy constantly tells us that we are NOT enough. Appropriate self-love is not negated in the scriptures, it is assumed and encouraged. Paul writes to husbands, “No one ever hated his own flesh….husbands love their wives as their own bodies.” Ephesians 5:28, Or how about “He who gains wisdom loves his own soul.” Proverbs 19:8 We are not to be self-centered OR other-centered but God-centered. But when we are God-centered we will be like him and that includes having compassion for ourselves and others.
Bill, it’s easy to judge someone after reading a paragraph or two and not getting the whole context. She wrote a book, ‘Give Yourself a Break’ available on Amazon. I would recommend you reading it all in context . I learned so much from this teaching. Until we do see our need to give ourselves the same Grace we pass on to others, and learn how to have an internal voice that pucks us up rather than tears us down- not only do we suffer, but the important people in our life suffer as well. It is worth reading and learning how to be kind to ourselves and then watch it poured out unto others!!!
I agree with all of your points and I also agree that I can agree with god about what he thinks of me! god thinks that I am wonderful, he made me unique and he loves me deeply. god loved me so much that he sent his son to be the perfect sacrifice for my sin, mistakes and shortcomings, caused by the fall. it is because of gods great example of love through the final atonement of Jesus Christ, that I can absolutely love myself the way god loves me. if the great creator of the universe loves me that way, then I can love myself in that exact way. personally that is what I took from the writing. although you have good points, but this forum was only focusing in on one area which does not mean that the other areas aren’t valid. I love myself because of exactly how god loves me. and OUR GOD LOVES ME SO MUCH IT COMPLETELY BLOWS MY MIND. GREAT CONVERSATION THOUGH. THANK YOU.
HI THERE bill, one more thing…to not love myself the way god loves me, to me means that his grace and mercy aren’t good enough and didn’t get the job done. by loving myself and receiving god’s grace and mercy I believe that I am honoring and respecting the work of my savior. by not fully re ceiving this precious gift I believe that I am disgracing gods/JC painful offering of true love. so I gobble up his mercy and grace as a way to show honor and respect for the kings gifts towards me.
To think that any of us can actually get to the point of completely losing self interest is a form of pride. As poor sinners saved by Christ alone, any morbid efforts on our part to “die to self” actually accomplish the opposite. Choosing Christ is the ultimate act of self preservation. God knows we are “made of dust”. Encouraging self hatred in an effort to be more “godly” has the opposite affect.
Why did Christ die for us? Because we are of infinitely great value as the workmanship of God. As Dallas Willard says “Things of great value can be lost”. We are lost in darkness and sin without Christ, but it is because we are so valuable to God that He sent His son to die for us, not because we are worthless worms! He created us for relationship with Himself. “Miserable Sinner” Christianity, that encourages us to hate ourselves, leaves the prideful confident that they are hating themselves enough, and the humble sure that they never will be able to. It is a form of legalism that threatens to snuff out the bruised reed and smouldering wick. We only gain a true understanding of our deep sin, as we drink in the incredible grace and life giving message of affirmation from the Lord.
I disagree that self-compassion minimizes sin. We must always be debtors before Christ, resting moment by moment on His life giving sacrifice and resurrection. Compassion is a character trait of God. He is full of compassion toward us, and urges us to be compassionate to one another. How can it be disobedient to also be compassionate to ourselves? I would argue that until we can be self compassionate, and come to an understanding of God’s incredible compassion for US, we CANNOT learn to be properly compassionate to others.
Let me add – we are first chosen by God. Ephesians 1:4 “We were chosen in Him before the creation of the world”. It is all His work. I can never learn to be humble without His saving work in my heart, I can never eradicate “self-love” (pride) without His saving work in my heart, I cannot learn self compassion without His saving work.
Bill…the questions you raised are important to consider and I am assuming the best in your response — that you are coming from a good place of wanting what was shared in this initial post (as well as your comment) to stand up to the light of Scripture.
I’m delighted to hear everyone weighing in on such an important topic, sharing your perspective and encouraging one another in all you are learning. I am enjoying this group so much. Thanks Leslie for your excellent comments as always.
Bill…addressing the points you shared…
More accurately, Pride is at the root of all sin (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28). In contrast, Jesus refers to healthy self-love when He instructs us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matt 22:39). Healthy self-love includes self-care, and unhealthy self-love displays itself as selfishness.
Caring for self and loving others is never presented in the Bible as opposites. Scripture is quite comfortable with the idea that we can love ourselves and love others….this all comes from the knowledge and experience of God’s great and indescribable love for us.
I do understand your wish that I said something about the transforming power of the gospel in this blog post. As you know, a short blog post has its limits. You will be glad to know that you and I are on the same page regarding the gospel’s transformational power in our lives – I talk about this in chapter 3 of my book. Part of the Gospel’s transformation includes seeing ourselves as God sees us…you are correct that this was only an implied element included in this post.
I am concerned that you are inaccurately linking (any and all) healthy self-love (Mt 22) to sin.
Valuing ourselves as God does, and looking at ourselves as God does is a very Biblical answer for our tendency to beat ourselves up unnecessarily. As we look to Jesus for our worth and value, we are reminded of how important and valuable we are to Him.
What I hear in you, Bill, is someone who doesn’t want the addition of self-compassion in our lives to get out of balance and lead readers astray. I agree. Treating ourselves with both grace and truth is essential and reflects God and His redemption in our lives. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Sending Blessings and Compassion to you Bill ~ Kim
Leonie.. Thank you for your kind words. Some days I am so tired of being treated like a roommate. When I confront my husband he always throws in my face how I treated him. We never get anywhere.
I am not ready to leave. I may be in denial. I haven’t been a trophy wife and I don’t remember the times when I wasn’t a good wife. Maybe I blocked it all out because I had no idea what to do or how I was supposed to find resolution with such an angry man and painful marriage.
Shame seems to be the engine that fuels all the bad stuff: people-pleasing, faking-perfection, obsessions, workaholism, whatever it is, —you and the Lord know what it is for your life even if it is none of those. . . .I used to think self-criticism and loathing was spiritual humility. —Actually, it was what was fueling those issues! I was constantly shaming myself and it gave me no real choice. The more compassion I have for myself, the more easily I show compassion to others and can actually love them better. With self-compassion, I no longer need to engage as much in unhealthy behaviors to protect my ego (—I guard my heart).
I would encourage and invite you simply to try being compassionate with yourself and see if the results help you grow closer to Christ. . . . Just do your own controlled experiment: Next time you do something not consistent with Christ’s love, try balancing truth and grace by being compassionate and tender toward yourself, just like God’s heart is tender toward us in our frailties. I think you will find the results of compassion way more effective and pleasing to our heavenly Father. I have and can tell you plainly that being compassionate has nothing to do with enabling sin. Just the opposite!
God’s love is always the answer and God’s love is so incredibly full of compassion. I invite and encourage you to do your own word study. Look at every place in the Bible you find compassionate, charitable, tender, etc. Notice that compassion is linked with responsiveness, understanding, et.al. —If you find actual Bible verses showing the issues with compassion (—any places where it is proscribed, forbidden, etc. —prohibitions) put them out here so we can discuss them.
Finally, I also invite and encourage you to just “risk” getting Kim’s book and trying the scripts (modify them for your situations). I believe they will help you do the things that please the Father’s heart. For me, the way to be a more effective follower of Jesus Christ was to develop a more compassionate relationship with myself. I think you would find the same thing. —And I fully understand that many people confuse self-indulgence with self-compassion but self-compassion is just σπλαγχνίζομαι (compassion) that includes yourself (re: violates no exegetical logic).
What I hear from most of the responses is still minimizing the seriousness of sin. When we sin we don’t just say “oh well, God still thinks I’m awesome” and move on. There is a healthy godly sorrow regarding our sin, the kind that leads to repentance. And then there is the type of ungodly sorrow over our sin that leads to condemnation. What I am arguing for is that we still pursue holiness in everything we do, even though we will fail miserably. To keep focussing on ourselves instead of Christ is incorrect and leads us into an unhealthy love of ourselves. I am linking to an article that explains much better that I could why reading Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself is not primarily about loving yourself. Because our hearts are wicked and evil whenever we focus on ourselves instead of Christ we are robbing God of his glory. What makes us beautiful and gives us infinite worth is the Spirit of Christ in us once we come by faith in the person and work of Jesus. Apart from Jesus we are ugly and evil, biblically speaking. I am in no way saying we walk around and beat ourselves up over our sins or mistakes, I think Romans is pretty clear that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, when we do sin we shouldn’t take it lightly as if God doesn’t care about it, the remedy he provided to deal with our sin problem cost the life of his son so it’s a serious issue. Our goal should be to look to Christ, always, not ourselves. What I am reading in the majority of the article above is a lot of secular psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy type stuff mixed with a little Bible and that isn’t biblical counseling. What we all need is the grace of God in Christ and a heart transplant to take out the old heart of stone and give us a new heart of flesh so we can begin to think Christ’s thoughts after him. And with the mind of Christ we can follow Paul’s example in Philippians 2 where he outlines that to think like Jesus means that we do not concern ourselves with ourselves primarily, but we consider others more important and serve them in every way possible. I hope this clarifies my points a little better and I hope the articles help you all as well.
This is a podcast that I think I linked to in my initial post that addresses the myth of self-forgiveness, but it gives very practical and biblically grounded instruction for dealing with our failures and healthy love of ourselves. I hope you all take just a few minutes to listen to the podcast, it is extraordinarily helpful.
”. . . . . if we were supposed to understand the idea of self-compassion to the level of importance that you are giving it, God would have mentioned it in the Bible and instructed us to be sure to have compassion on ourselves.”
Bill, thank you so much for the response! I appreciate that. So, “God would have mentioned it” is an argument from silence and would apply to thousands of things in the Scriptures. If your daughter had nerve cell activity being disrupted in her brain (epilepsy), you would take her to the hospital not assume it was demons. If Jesus wanted us to differentiate between epilepsy and demons, our Lord would have made that clear from the gospels but He doesn’t. Do you see how you could apply that to everything? Epilepsy (ἐπιλαμβάνειν) is not a group of neurological disorders, it is demons; otherwise, our Savior would have mentioned that sometimes the brain sends out abnormal signals if that were important to know. . . . . —And Bill, I don’t mean to be harsh, I so despise harsh. But, do you see the logical fallacies “God would have mentioned it” can get us into?. . . .And that is just a very minor example. . . . .Listen, Bill, I hear your and John Piper’s hearts —RE: Jesus’ offers no support at all to the purveyors of self-esteem because Jesus presupposed people love themselves; and the meaning of this self-love is that people desire and seek what they think is best for them. . . . et.al.) —And just as importantly, I SO get the zeal for The Gospel being the answer because it SO, SO, SO IS THE ANSWER but God expects us all to grow and learn. . . . . . You so easily say: ”I am not saying that we view ourselves as invaluable and beat ourselves up. . . “ That statement is as simplistic as: the cause of all seizures is demons. . . . . Bill, straight honesty, it frosted me the first time I saw this post too. . . . —I thought, look at this!!! More patience trying stuff from Mrs. Vernick’s blog! —Wow, Lord, this really IS the place to learn forbearance and self-restraint!!! . . . . . Listen, I don’t understand why everything doesn’t begin with at least a brief discussion of the gospel either but I guess that is what it is like to live in post-modern Christianity. . . . .That said, it is more important that our hearts and actions be in the right place than our words. Words can be in their places but our hearts and actions thousands of miles away. . . . If you have read any of Kim’s, Leslie’s books you know where their hearts are coming from very quickly. . . . . . Bill, God helps us learn things over time, you know that. Most serious Christian pastors and theologians until the late 19th century held that the Bible sanctioned slavery. That view was clearly expressed by Clement of Alexandria, Origen (clearly), Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas (clearly), Luther (clearly), Calvin (clearly), Bill I could fill this page with the names. . . . . . I was reading a month ago the Presbyterian Assembly report of 1845 which concluded that slavery was based on “the plainest declarations of the Word of God!” Those who took this position were conservative evangelicals and among their number were the best conservative theologians and exegetes (—serious Christians that knew Hebrew and Greek and taught in those fields) of the day, including, Robert Dabney, James Thomwell, Charles Hodge (imagine that, Charles Hodge!), et. al. The fathers of twentieth century evangelicalism. . . . . .Bill, it is still timeless truth but God expects us to keep learning and come to the correct conclusions about the conflicts (—and they are there—) between Biblical accounts and empirically derived knowledge about all kinds of borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, neuropsychological issues, et. al. . . . .When we were children, we were in our parents care and if you had good parents (I did not) they had compassion on you. Now, I am in the Lord’s care but He expects me to parent myself too. . . . I’ll recheck σπλαγχνα and σπλαγχνίζομαι, as well as, re-read Piper’s two articles and then I will pray some more and see if the Lord shows me anything new. I’m telling you, I clearly see a cognitive dimension to compassion that includes self-compassion. . . . . But this is a good lesson for me too. We need to check the sources not use textual commentaries as crutches for our own work. Depending on another who has done “the work” does not mean accuracy. Bill, I don’t know if you are just using NA27 and UBS4, as if they were definitely the original text —I now looking at the apparatus listing all the variants. For example, Mark chapter one our oldest witnesses, Codex Bezae, “Jesus felt compassion” has orgistheis not splangnistheis —as you know, that is a huge difference. . . . . Anyway, all truth is God’s Truth, even if it comes from neuroscientists, psychiatrists, chemical analysis in laboratories, even if it comes from Stephen Barr’s SU5.
I plan to listen to the podcast and article you mentioned above. My husband, who has a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Bible Baptist Seminary, firmly believes in fully reading both sides of every theological discussion before commenting, so getting more information is always good. As a pastor and seminary professor he never allows his students to argue a point unless they can fully detail the opposing view’s major points. I’m assuming you have done the same in reading my book, and haven’t based all of your responses on a short blog post.
I won’t be responding to the resources you shared on this blog because of my health. No doubt in doing your research you visited my website to learn as much as you could before commenting. On the off chance that got missed, I am terminally ill and have to conserve my energy, and use my time wisely. I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, and went through very difficult treatment. I then developed a very rare side effect from chemotherapy that gave me pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive lung disease that requires me to be on oxygen 24/7. My life has been turned upside down, and God is good throughout, and is blessing me richly amidst such difficult times. I am grateful for every breath and every day, and need to use my time and energy wisely. I wish you well and wish good things for you. ~ Kim
—I just want you to know that I continue seriously praying for you every single day and I am using the compassion scripts / self-talk and they are invaluable to me. . . . . —Lord, you see my prayers and my tears, you gave more years to Hezekiah, please, please do not withhold them from Kim. . . . . Your husband, wow, he has a level of diligence that just astounds me: re: “ . . . . As a pastor and seminary professor he never allows his students to argue a point unless they can fully detail the opposing view’s major points.” —Wow, fully detail!!! —Now, that is a serious, truth-seeker warrior!!! Most pastors and most people would not have much to say if that is what they had really done before delivering sermons and Bible studies vs. a whole raft of special pleading, question begging, red herrings, double standards, straw man arguments, etc. —My goal is to love the Lord God more every passing year, even though, in my human frailty, I so wish the Lord would have made all ancient extant Bible manuscripts indestructible, unalterable (-no 100,000s of textual variants) and self-translating (-vs. scholars constantly fighting over context and the meaning of words). In the past, I have been so, so frustrated by that. Why Lord??? . . . .What’s the number one principle of good relationships? Solid, clear communication, right?. . . .I assume the Lord is trying to teach us to really love like Christ loved and seriously help each other and not go back and forth over things that add up to nothing. God knows why, I surely don’t. . . . .This year, we switched from Wednesday night Bible study to Wednesday night prayer group —just prayer. One thing I learned is that (—at least for me), engaging in word studies didn’t bring us closer together like prayer does. Who cares what it says if we don’t have love. Christ’s love to you Kim.
Please see my response above, I hope that clarifies my points better. However, being compassionate towards myself is not a prerequisite to serving and loving others, in fact I am not even sure how one takes compassion on themselves. Please listen to the podcast I linked to below, I would be interested to hear your thoughts. I am not saying that we view ourselves as invaluable and beat ourselves up, what I am saying is we should not be concerned with ourselves, but others.
Interestingly, the verb σπλαγχνίζομαι when used in the context of having or showing compassion actually carries more weight than we might think by just translating it “compassion” in English. The word tends to carry the idea of the bowels, or heart of a person, the entire center of emotions. So when Jesus has compassion on folks in the Bible he is moved to the very core of his being for them, not himself. I cannot find anywhere in the Bible where σπλαγχνίζομαι is used to describe having this for a person’s self, it is always used to describe an action someone is taking towards another. I think, just my opinion, if we were supposed to understand the idea of self-compassion to the level of importance that you are giving it, God would have mentioned it in the Bible and instructed us to be sure to have compassion on ourselves. What I find most often discussed in the Bible is the need to die to self in one way or another. Paul explains this well in his letter to the Galatians.
I really appreciated John Piper’s discussion in the podcast I linked to. He explained 2 Corinthians 7:9-10:
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
I think this describes what you all are talking about. Godly sorrow brings about repentance. We don’t condemn ourselves and beat ourselves up, rather we realize our sin and repent from it, turning to the Lord. Worldly grief would be beating ourselves up over and over again and falling into deep depression and shame, which is unnecessary as a result of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf. I think we might be talking about some of the same things, only using different terminology. Anyway, if you give the podcast a listen I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.
Your above response took my breath away and touched me deeply. You have a rare gift, which I know you have worked hard to develop. You speak clearly, with love and compassion, rooted in your love and study of the Scriptures. I have seen a deepening and rootedness in you develop over the course of these blog posts. I’m so delighted to see your growth and am blessed by your “grace and truth” words. I’m reminded of Ps 1:1-3 when you share.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”
Your words are yielding fruit and blessing more people than you know. Thanks for using your mind, heart and soul for His Kingdom. ~ Kim
I just reread this post – this phrase really stuck out to me. “The abuser is very wounded inside, and is highly sensitive to each and every response or non-response from others…because pain and self-contempt that is already inside gets triggered. If he /she could begin to slowly show compassion to the hurt places inside then the abuser would not be as reactive and controlling. So I would agree that this material would be very helpful and is an important part of the healing needed inside.”
With both of my marriages I saw this internal pain in my husbands (whichever at the time I was married to them) & suspect both of them were abused as children (although I am not sure in what capacity because they never spoke of it – my close friend who has a masters in counselling thinks my 2nd husband had been messed with sexually as a child) The crazy behaviours they displayed were so out of proportion to or not even related to things going on in the marriage. I often said to myself that I don’t know what is going on but there seems to be nothing else to do than get out of the way because there is no way to have a relationship with this person. What ever the history it seems they were so messed up (in different ways) as to make a mutual relationship almost impossible. It is sad, I guess as women that God loves, we can pray for their healing as well because their lives seem to be so intolerable, especially the man I have just recently separated from. Actually my grown sons – 20 & 22 ask me – “mom, what happened to him that he behaves this way?”
I accept that I can not help other than to stay away and pray that God in his wisdom will touch them & heal them in ways to that only he knows they need so that our children are not traumatized when they are with him.
I acknowledge that there is something inside of me that was drawn to them but so sad that I have such beautiful
children & a relationship their their dad is not possible for me. I cannot be with their dad without being personally annihilated. Only God can make sense of this and use these experiences for his glory.
This describes so well my situation. I suspect my husband was victim of abuse by a priest and so he is violently opposed to anything to do with my faith. he blames this on marriage break up but forgets the years and years of his abusive and destructive behavour towards myself and our sons growing up before I came to follow Christ. He is simply unable to self reflect and I have realised how damaging his behaviour is to me to be around – toxic. My sons have little to do with him and he blames everyone else. Sometimes you cannot help people and have to step aside and let God do what only he can do. I now give myself permission to put myself first after years and years of trying to make it work.
Leonie and Beth,
So good to hear your sharing as you step back and care for yourself and “let God do what only He can do.” Such words of wisdom. Sending compassion your way…Kim
Thanks so much for your fervent prayers on my behalf. This touches me so… It continues to be a blessing to hear your tender heart and how you are extending that care to yourself as well as others. I love what you shared about the differences you’ve noticed in your prayer group. How wonderful. I just recently posted some recent radio interviews and YouTube links on my website if that would be of interest. http://www.kimfredrickson.com/contact-media/
Christ’s Love to You Too! Kim
Thank you so, so much for the wonderful links and clips. That is so kind. I have not listened to all of them yet but I will. I have been and am still praying for you every single day and I will NOT forget. . . . But I must admit I was terrified to come back and check this blog post. I’m afraid of everything re: self-criticism and blame. . . . I had to go to Europe in early August for work but that gave me lots of time for praying. . . . I really believe that God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them. Prayers even outlive the lives of those who uttered them; they may even outlive an age, outlive the world. God makes astounding promises to faith and prayer and I am so trusting Him for that for you. . .
Thank you all for this great discussion of Biblical love for God, ourselves and others. I believe that Jesus loved like He did because He knew how loved He was by His Father and was secure in His Godhead relationship. He did not need anyone to affirm Him or build Him up. That is why He was never surprised by how He was treated by people. In my own journey with Christ, growing in His grace and knowing Him more and more, I have grown the most since I came to know who He, my heavenly Father, is and who I am in Him. It is only then that I can truly love others. When, I hear someone on this blog speak of self-love I understand what they mean. They know how much they are loved by Christ and therefore accept themselves as He has made them. They also know how much they need Him to live and love others. I cannot love those who abuse me but Christ can through me. This is God’s work in us. I love you all and thank you for your journeys that have encouraged me in my own journey.
Thanks so much for your sharing regarding the growth, hope and peace you feel as you focus on God and the love and connection you are able to receive deep within. Your words are a blessing…Kim
Your work on self-compassion really helped me put my finger on the block to help me begin removing shaming words from self-talk.
My childhood church taught perfectionism as necessary and so many rules I could not hear that God was good. Rules ivershadowed how to have a relationship with Jesus, or even to have self-acceptance because there was no grace taught, salvation was by performance of doctrines… I struggled to even be a child.., You are so right that Jesus was compassionate and would want self-compassion for us as it helps us love and grow past mistakes! My husband and I have had no conflict management system as he blew me off when I first expressed displeasure at a mistake he made. Then it grew to him turning a mistake he made as wrong for attacking him… His image did not allow him to be wrong. I could not understand the dynamic and it led to depression. I see now the hurt could not be well expressed with skills I possessed and got buried. Counselor did not pick up on the real issues or how to do marriage counseling with us. He was unsafe emotionally but could manipulate the counselor royally.
How to regain or find true sense of purpose and value at 61 after so much trauma emotionally and losing contact with adult children. I am a conquer member and grateful for finding Leslie!
Thanks so much for your continued prayers on my behalf and for your tender heart toward me. I’m so glad your time away gave you extra time to pray. Your words on this post continue to bless others, and I am so grateful to get to know you in this way. Continue to be kind and compassionate with yourself. Continued Blessings, Kim
. . . .Oh my, I just saw this and I didn’t realize you commented to me all the way at the bottom here. . . . I have a lot to learn about technology. I post these from a BlackBerry handheld and it is like a mouse in a maze with technology that small.
. . . . Anyway, I love you. . . . That happens with people I pray intensely for ―[crying with tears streaming down my face] . . .―I didn’t tell you before, I visited a Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk, in Lower Austria in August. That abbey was founded in 1089 and that monastery’s scriptorium was a major site for the production of manuscripts all across Europe (―something I am always interested in! ―Answerless questions and what I call deepities) . . . .countless manuscripts. ―Anyway, it is so obvious from those acient manuscripts and woodcuts that self-hatred and shame (self-criticism/loathing as a spiritual practice of humility) was so, so fueled by the church’s materials. . . .Even in my Bible church today, the pastor refers to himself as a worm and you talk about being compassionate and loving ourselves, people think you are self-centered. . . . .I know you know how wrong that is. I think that lack of self-compassionate-love leads a lot of individuals to disappoint the people who love them unconditionally, and love the ones who hurt them the most. Compassion is such a battle with yourself. ―And the absence of self-love can never be replaced with the presence of people’s love for you. ―I know you understand all that too. . . .I love how you model and use words that speak truth and grace into life when we are struggling! It’s very powerful. . . . . Our self-talk is the channel of behavior change (i.e. we can’t change while inhaling the poison of our own breath, in infinite repetition.) . . .I wonder why those monks never figured that out, it’s not like they didn’t know the Scriptues or were not praying all the time.
Christ’s love to you Kim.
[…] About a year ago I invited counselor Kim Fredrickson to write a blog for me from her new book, Give Yourself a Break: Turning your Inner Critic into Your Compassionate Friend. For more help on what it is to be compassionate towards yourself, I encourage you to read her words. […]