Excerpt From My Interview with Kim Hendrickson - Author of "Give Yourself A Break"
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.
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.