Is this a question you ask yourself? Sometimes I ask it.
I used to think that we were put here on this planet to love. Just plain love.
Today, I hold a different view. I think we're here to embody compassion. Why? Because true compassion, in my view, anyway, is a step "above" love. Some people are easy to love; others more difficult by their very nature. But with training and practice anybody hold any person—even the most difficult or unkind—in tenderness and mercy.
The problem is that we are not really taught how to be compassionate. We are taught to like or dislike, to love or disdain. And the same applies to ourselves. We are not shown (nor encouraged) how to be self-compassionate, which is absolutely vital, before we can even begin to demonstrate genuine compassion for others.
This is why I talk and teach so much about self-compassion. Self-compassion is the pre-requisite for living in and creating a peaceful, kind, and loving world.
I'd like to share an excerpt from my book, My Deepest Me, on self-compassion. The text below serves as Day 14 for our 30-day journey. I believe it offers a solid explanation of my perspective and take on "the meaning of life."
Our faith traditions tell us we are supposed to be patient, kind, and generous, but sometimes that’s just plain hard to do. Life is challenging. People are too. This is why it is important to learn to treat ourselves kindly—to treat ourselves as lovingly and tenderly as we would a dear friend or a precious child. Instead of being disappointed in ourselves for missing the mark, or failing at embodying the spiritual virtues to which we aspire, we can choose another course of action: self-compassion.
In every spiritual tradition, compassion is highly valued. Compassion for ourselves, however, has often been aligned with self-absorption or selfishness. And we are not taught, nor encouraged, how to be self-compassionate.
In truth, self-compassion is one of the most powerful spiritual virtues we can adopt to walk peaceably in the world. First, we must learn to walk peaceably with ourselves. Then we can learn to walk this way with others. We cannot exhibit true compassion for others if we have not cultivated it for ourselves.
1. Self-assess and reflect: How skilled are you at self-compassion? Do you talk nicely to yourself or are you self-critical? Do you make kind choices for yourself or do you tend to push yourself? Do you have high expectations of yourself and find fault with yourself if you don’t meet them?
2. Reflect on this teaching about self-compassion by the Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” What stirs in you when you read this?
3. Right now, place your hand over your heart and offer self-compassion to yourself, saying “I am enough.” Breathe in, breathe out. Allow a sense of “enoughness” to wash through you. Feel the transformative power of knowing you are good enough—just as you are.
Self-compassion opens my heart to myself in a kind and loving way. It routs out feelings of selfishness, deservedness, and guilt. When I am tender with myself, I can be more gentle with others.
Excerpted from My Deepest Me by Janice Lynne Lundy.
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.