“I should have done [insert unmet expectation/task/obligation].”
“How could I have been so stupid?”
In the last week, these are phrases I have heard uttered by students, clients and/or colleagues…and sometimes even more than once. And if I’m really honest, sometimes even by myself.
As we reflect on external resources (e.g., diet, exercise, social support) that support resiliency, it is also important to pay attention to our internal resources (i.e., ourselves) that are equally critical to our wellness. When we voice failure, set ourselves up for “should,” or claim stupidity, we deplete and undercut our own resilience. Self-compassion is a practice of building up these internal stores.
Self-compassion is a necessary component of ministry resilience. In order to care for others fully, we must take care of ourselves in a compassionate and forgiving way. This is especially important given the difficult moments that arise in ministry. Paul Tillich, in the wise and poetic words of You are Accepted, states:
“One who is able to love self is able to love others also; one who has ‘learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome contempt for others.’”
Self-compassion, defined by psychologist and researcher Kristin Neff, is comprised of three components (Neff, 2009):
1) Self-kindness versus self-judgment
- Self-kindness is the tendency to be caring and understanding with one’s self rather than critical or judgmental.
- Instead of taking a cold “stiff-upper-lip” when approaching times of suffering, self-kindness offers soothing and comfort to one’s self.
2) A sense of common humanity versus isolation
- We can connect our own flawed condition to the shared human condition.
- With common humanity, greater perspective is taken towards personal shortcomings and difficulties.
3) Mindfulness versus overidentification
- Being aware of one’s present moment experience in a clear and balanced manner.
- Mindfulness allows us to neither ignore nor ruminate on disliked aspects of our self or our life.
As you continue in your ministry, be mindful of how kind you are to yourself. Are you bringing the same level of compassion to yourself as you are to others? Returning to the words of Paul Tillich, self-compassion can then allow for grace:
“Grace in the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself. Grace is the acceptance of that which is rejected. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful destiny; it changes guilt into confidence and courage. There is something triumphant in the word grace: in spite of the abounding of sin, grace abounds much more.”
Neff, K. (2009). The role of self-compassion in development: A healthier way to relate to oneself. Human Development, 52, 211-214.
Tillich, P. (1948). “You are Accepted.” In Tillich, P. Shaking of the Foundations. New York City: C. Scribner Sons
- Reflection by Krista Redlinger-Grosse, Ph.D., Sc.M., L.P.