Why Would You Want To?

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In my ongoing quest to come to the end of the internet, this week I discovered a word I should have seen coming—self-compassion. Self-compassion is a stop somewhere out there on the journey to self-love, which, from my vast research, seems to be a terminal destination. Self-compassion nor self-love should be confused with self-indulgence, which of course is bad, and is probably the conjoined twin of self-care. And also, I took the quiz, though I lied. I put ‘sometimes’ down for every question because I don’t really care, I just wanted to see what they were asking. By the twelfth one I was clinically bored.

It seems to me, though I never thought it was possible, that modern western culture is determined to put a lie to that tragic questioning cry, found in the lections for today, if you were thinking of trudging off to church somewhere. It’s that famous line buried in a recapitulation of Psalm One (also for today) and much maligned by ex-evangelicals who love Brene Brown. Here it is.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

After two more articles on the website Well and Good, where you can find the link to take that quiz if you want, I feel like the answer to that question is, ‘Why would you want to?’ Because after a very short interval its not that interesting anymore. The more the world careens towards self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, self-care, all wrapped up with that dreaded bow of self-indulgence, the more the internet stops being curious and fun, the more twitter lives into its full malign nature. Are human people even that interesting when they are in the ghastly throws of self-compassion?

“Cursed,” explained Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, “is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” He is like a shrub in a desert, parched. But I am reminded of all that grass we human people are likened to somewhere else by some other prophet*. It grows up suddenly and waves in the bright sun and bends in the wind and you think ‘oh, that’s so fresh and bright and summer is so great,’ but then you come back a month later and there’s a heavy layer of snow and the grass is nowhere to be seen. It died. It was brittle. Fire or snow, or time really, and its as if it never even existed. That is the human person, scrolling wildly through a social-media news feed, driven along by that unsparing, internal rule of self-love. Cursed.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, and it shouldn’t, a few verses later you come across the antidote. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,” and then, in case you didn’t quite get it, Jeremiah repeats himself, “whose trust is in the Lord.” He is like a tree planted by streams of water, whose roots go down into the cool silent depths, who stays green all the time and even bears fruit.

How can a human person, of whatever kind of gender, in whatever state of self-love, who is here one moment, like the grass, and gone the next, ever be like a tree? I met a glorious tree last month. Some ancient, vast oak tree down in the south that looked like it had wandered out of Lord of the Rings, and also like it would say something in words if you stood there long enough, quietly.

Trees and grass are all of the same stuff, the same idea. They both live. They can both look pretty. But one of them isn’t going anywhere, and, according to Jeremiah, that one of is basically completely happy, blessed even, sucking up water through its roots while the other one burns itself out in a conflagration of self-love.

Jeremiah answers his own question, “Who can understand it,” with the only answer you’d expect of him. He quotes God, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

What is curious to me is that God would even want to know. That he bothers with the search. That he hasn’t already had enough of ladders.com and Well and Good and just chucked it. Sin—of which self-love, if not the chief, is surely reclining at the head of the table—is not that interesting. There is never anything new and wonderful about it. When you see it there in the light it doesn’t look shocking nor inviting. It is strange of God that he would take the trouble even to search the depths of a boring and bedraggled humanity, setting themselves alight with vanity and calling it special.

“Heal me,” concludes Jeremiah, setting himself down by the stream and probably throwing his phone into its sparkling depths, “and I shall be healed. Save me and I shall be saved. For you are my praise.”

God, who is the living water, and is himself the most interesting being out there, if only we would stop gazing at ourselves in the mirrors of our lives and wander away to read a book, but especially the book I’ve been quoting here, has the power and the inclination to heal and to save. His compassion far surpasses any that you or I could ever manufacture, even with the help of a leading psychologist. He has mercy on those who suddenly see themselves going up in smoke, who see the stream and the cool quiet and wish they could stop careening along in the way of the wicked.

And what of the tree? Because it is not just any tree. It stands there against the sky so that when you hurry by, if you were to pause, just for a moment, you would actually see a redemption, a healing, a compassion, a salvation, indeed, a solution to all the cares of the world, fixed there. You could pause and sit, and drink, and eat, and forget yourself in a haze of wonder. You can’t understand yourself or him, but he understands both.

Be a tree, go to church.

*Isaiah 40:7

30 Healing Quotes On Self-Forgiveness

See PsychCentral Article Here
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Just as mantras are helpful for me to process emotions, so are quotes. I often turn to them for wisdom and inspiration. The following sound bytes have been especially helpful in trying to learn how to forgive myself.

Like most people I know, I judge my own indiscretions with a different standard than those of others. While I can often separate the kindness of a loved one from the wrong she did, I make no such distinction for myself. I become my mistake.

The words of the following writers, philosophers, psychologists, and theologians encourage a gentler, kinder perspective that fosters healing. Their sage sayings prompt me toward self-compassion, which paves the way to self-forgiveness. May they do the same for you.

  1. Forgive yourself. The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows. — Miguel Ángel Ruiz Macías
  2. When we give ourselves self-compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives. – Kristin Neff
  3. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it. — Maya Angelou
  4. Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior. – Mark Victor Hansen
  5. Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion – Buddha
  6. We all make mistakes, don’t we? But if you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll always be an exile in your own life. – Curtis Sittenfeld
  7. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” – Henri Nouwen
  8. There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love. – Bryant H. McGill
  9. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. – Carl Jung
  10. I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him. – C. S. Lewis
  11. Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love. – Mahatma Gandhi
  12. We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same. – Pema Chodron
  13. In order to heal, we must first forgive … and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourselves. – Mila Bron
  14. You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. – Louise L. Hay
  15. Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. – Tara Brach
  16. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield
  17. You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of you 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. – Buddha
  18. Love yourself instead of abusing yourself. – Karolina Kurkova
  19. Your inner critic is simply a part of you that needs more self-love. –Amy Leigh Mercree
  20. You forgive yourself for every failure because you are trying to do the right thing. God knows that and you know it. Nobody else may know it. –Maya Angelou
  21. Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies. Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance. You will come to see that all evolves us. –Rumi
  22. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves. – Pema Chodron
  23. You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. – Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
  24. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. –Carl Jung
  25. If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down. – Buddha
  26. Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. – Anonymous
  27. It’s not about worthiness, it’s about willingness. – R. Alan Woods
  28. The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure. – Stephen Richards
  29. Peace is letting it be. Letting life flow, letting emotions flow through you. – Kamal Ravikant
  30. Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place. –Anonymous