On Self-Compassion

Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

For week two of our "Misused Scripture" teaching series, our Brooklyn location looked at Matthew 5:48 and talked about developing compassion, specifically self-compassion. Many of us New Yorkers have grown to realize we're not great at self-compassion. But how are we supposed to embrace Christ's call to love others when we struggle simply to love ourselves?

One of the best authors I've found to turn to on the subjects of self-compassion and perfectionism is Dr. Brene Brown, who I blogged about here. Another great resource I referenced in my sermon "How to Be Perfect," is Dr. Kristin Neff and her website on self-compassion. Her research shows that developing self-compassion involves three elements...

Three Elements of Self-Compassion:

Self-Kindness - How are you kind to yourself? Do your perfectionist tendencies create feelings of unworthiness and failure? When those feelings arise what do you do to care for and show yourself love? Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself" but too often in our busy, competitive world we forget or struggle to obey and love ourselves. There's a great section in Susan Cain's book, Quiet, on finding your "sweet spot." Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, finding and embracing your sweet spot is definitely an important part of being kind to yourself. This post from the Indrani's Light foundation blog gives a good summary of what it means to find your "sweet spot." 

Human Connection - In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown reminds us that "our imperfections are not inadequacies, they're reminders that we're all in this together." Sometimes the very shame that we're struggling with or the pain we've overcome that allows us to best serve others. This is why our Forefront community emphasizes the importance of sharing your story and listening to the stories of others. For more on our vision for showing compassion to both our neighbors and our enemies, versus just standing in tolerance of them, read this blog post. Our society needs a socially-focused church of Christ followers to step up and stand in peace with those who stand for compassion in our city and our world.

Mindfulness - As a member of the body of Christ, the single best thing we can do to develop self-compassion is to spend time seeking God. Join the leaders of Forefront in following The Daily Office - 20 minutes of guided prayer and scripture reading each day. Dr. Neff also offers some great audio mediations aimed at helping you develop self-compassion. The more you become aware of your self-criticism and prejudices, the better you'll get at catching yourself before those perfectionist thoughts even start. Cultivating a relationship with Jesus, reminding yourself that you are loved just as you are, and returning that love through compassion for yourself and others, brings you closer to wholeness with God. We are made perfect through His grace and compassion. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:3,4)