Thomas Kempis said, “First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” We experience inner peace when we show kindness and compassion to ourselves, yet sometimes we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves. As we treat ourselves with mercy and gentleness, it becomes easier to treat others that way.
Notice the things you say to yourself throughout the day. How often do you criticize yourself? How quick are you to blame yourself for innocent mistakes?
This morning I scolded myself for driving through mud after getting my car washed yesterday. I stopped the negative self-talk when I remembered that because of road construction near our home, I had no other choice than to drive along a dirty road to get to the grocery store. Even if there was no road construction near our home, when I chose to blame myself for being human I moved from a place of love into a place of fear.
During the past week I’ve heard many of my friends and family members blame themselves for mistakes they did not make. My daughter, Melanie, a nurse, told me how frustrated she was when she was caring for a sick neighbor and did not take her to the hospital as quickly as the neighbor needed to go. The part of the story she needed to remember was they her neighbor, also a nurse, refused to go to the hospital. I reminded her that she had done the very best she could do under the circumstances. In fact, when Melanie and her doctor-husband, Chris, took their neighbor to the emergency room that night, they saved the woman’s life.
Whenever we find ourselves saying “I should have…..(taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner) or” I would have…..(prevented suffering and medical complications if I had taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner), we are not being kind to ourselves. Most of us do this far too often, but as we learn to monitor our thinking patterns, we can replace critical thoughts with compassionate ones.
Sometimes we need a loving friend to remind us to do this. However, we can also become a loving friend to ourselves and remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience that we have. If you are tempted to berate yourself, replace that thought with something positive. Remind yourself that you are a incredible human being who is created in the image of God. Express love to yourself for the good things you are doing. Be bold. Tell yourself, “I love you. I love you unconditionally. I am perfectly and wonderfully made."
If you make a serious mistake, make amends, ask for God’s forgiveness, and then forgive yourself. Show yourself the same mercy that God shows you. Don’t dwell on your past mistakes. Instead, give yourself the same compassion that you would give your dearest friend.
Think of the many ways you can show kindness to yourself. Develop a talent. Take good care of your body. Learn something new. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s taking a nature walk, soaking in a hot tub, or reading a good book. Spend a few moments each day loving God and feeling His love for you. Write down a list of the good things you have done in your life and refer to that list if you are feeling sad.
As we fill up our own reservoirs of love and kindness, we can then radiate that love to others. "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." (George Washington Carver)
© Carol Brown