I’ve had the privilege of doing lots of radio interviews after the release of my book two months ago: Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend. During the course of these interviews and talking with lots of people
I’ve answered lots of questions, including Is Self-Compassion Biblical?
I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts answering these questions. I hope they are helpful to you, and I welcome your input. These questions seem to come from three directions:
~ Those who truly wanting to understand self-compassion in light of Biblical truth. I share a love of the Bible as well and have a deep desire that anything we learn is held up to it’s light of accuracy.
~ Those who are afraid of the idea of being loving and compassionate with themselves for a variety of reasons, and have a rather harsh reaction to the idea of being compassionate with ourselves.
~ Those who have great difficulty holding two concepts at the same time. In this case, being able to see oneself as full of worth and value, created by God as well as one who has a sin nature and needs God and His salvation. Many people find it challenging to see ourselves with both grace and truth…at the same time.
Many of these questions are addressed in my book, and I welcome the chance to give additional input as I’ve had the privilege to get input from a lot of people.
First of All, Let’s Start With a Definition of Self-Compassion
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. Out of self-compassion flow self-care and protection from harm.
Self-compassion is a balance of truth (Yes, I made a mistake) with grace (I have worth and value, and I will address mistakes directly).
Grace and truth together mean you acknowledge a negative that happened without either minimizing it or making it more than it was, and at the same time apply compassion to yourself. Self-compassion helps us handle our humanness and the situations we are in with empathy, concern, understanding and kindness.
Self-compassion is a gentle way we relate to ourselves both when we’re struggling as well as when things are going well. It’s like treating yourself as you would a friend who is struggling, learning something new, scared or confused.
Is Self-Compassion Biblical?
Answer Yes! Biblical Basis:
~ Mark 12:28–31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
~ Ephesians 4:25-32 tells us how we are to love our neighbors:
“Therefore each of you must put o! falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Notice these verses…especially the last one. If we are to do this for one another, why wouldn’t we also do this for ourselves? We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
~ Galatians 5:22–23 is another passage than can inspire us to treat ourselves in a biblically sound way. This wisdom applies to our interactions with others as well as ourselves.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
These verses describe characteristics that emanate from someone who is yielded to the Holy Spirit. When we are in tune with him and connected to him, we naturally experience and express these characteristics toward everyone—including ourselves. What a difference it would make to us internally as well as to those in relationship with us, if we treated ourselves in this way.
Love Joy Peace Forbearance Kindness Goodness Faithfulness Gentleness Self-Control
~ II Cor 13:10 – Paul shares that we are to be gentle with those under our care, which includes ourselves
“This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.”
By Stark Contrast…Self-Condemnation is Not Biblical*
~ Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This includes condemnation for your own self.
~ When Peter betrayed Christ he felt remorse, but in his self-examination he developed humility and gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness (Luke 22; John 21)
~ When Judas betrayed Christ, his self-condemnation drove him to commit suicide. (Luke 22; Matthew 27) Which is more biblical?
~ Jesus describes Satan as a liar and deceiver but he also accuses the children of God (John 8). Therefore when we have accusing and condemning voices in our head, I don’t think that is from the Holy Spirit but from the evil one and we should reject it promptly.
~ Proverbs is full of warnings about the power of a word and reckless words piercing like a sword. When we are constantly self-critical we create the very same bodily response (fight, flight or freeze) internally as would happen when someone else is constantly critical of us. That compromises our immune system and causes relational problems, which is not being a good steward of our life, body or health.
* Thanks to Leslie Vernick for these thoughts as we collaborated on a blog post together, Self-Compassion is Strength, Not Weakness.
I really enjoyed sharing this first question with you today. I care about each and every one of you, and would love to hear your response to what I shared. Please share with others who might benefit via e-mail or social media.
What was your response to this question? What made sense? What do you disagree with or wonder about? How does this discussion impact you?