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It's become difficult for me to write to you without first consulting the wisdom of John O'Donohue. "Something in us senses and knows how perfectly the contours of the soul fit the divine embrace," he writes. "It is the deepest dream of the soul to be in the intimacy of Divine Beauty."
Living self-compassion happens too rarely because it is confused with self-pity or self-indulgence. These two negative behaviors are actually the opposite of self-compassion.
For pianist Kelsi Fulton (above) playing the piano is an act of self-compassion as well as a vocation. The music flowing through her fingers helps heal her heart.
Pity, on the other hand, acts superior. "Look at that poor man," the pitying person says. "I feel sorry for him."
"Look at poor me," the self-pitier says. "I feel so sorry for myself.
"I am so wretched," Self-Indulgence tells us. "I need another martini."
Pity looks down. Compassion looks eye-to-eye.
Pity stares. Compassion shares.
Self-care requires self-compassion.
"When individuals feel self-pity," author Kristin Neff writes, "they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems...Self-pity tends to emphasize egocentric feelings of separation from others and exaggerates the extent of personal suffering."
A common pastime of mine has been to imagine myself as abandoned and to wallow in the sadness that entails. Which of us has not done the same?
Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves. Compassion elides the language of "woe-is-me."
Self-compassion calls us to forgive. Forgiveness is healing.
"I am a good person who will heal better if I rest," Compassion advises. "I don't want to over-eat or over-drink because I care about myself."
Pity contorts "the contours of the soul." It blocks our soul's ability to engage "the divine embrace."
Self-compassion drinks from the cup of Beauty to restore the soul. Beauty feeds our souls and enables Love.
Self-compassion is especially crucial for caregivers. No one wants pity from their doctor or chaplain or friend. Similarly, we do not want to give ourselves doses of pity.
Far better for us to turn away from indulgence and to open our hearts to compassion.
We are all hurting. We are all scared.
Pity wounds us. Self-kindness heals.
Water your soul with Beauty. Breathe the scent of God's Love.
-Reverend Erie Chapman
Photograph - Pianist Kelsi Fulton - copyright Erie Chapman 2011