Compassion, Maybe Even For Me?

July SUCKED!

It just did. And I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of why it sucked publicly on the internet, because I’m just not ready to go there right now. Maybe one day.

But what’s annoying about the crappy month that was July, is that it’s bleeding over into August now.

I’ve been in the very slow, low-pressure process of writing something. I don’t know if it will be a manifesto series of blog posts that kick off my next pursuits, a speaking series, or a book. But I’m taking a moment to be brave enough to admit that I’m writing it.

I’ve allowed it to be a low-pressure pursuit because I’ve recognized that I really don’t have the ability or capacity to make hard goals and deadlines out of it right now. If I’m going to be that intense about it something else will have to give, and I haven’t gotten the full clarity on what that might be in this season.

But what I’ve been doing is writing away during the solo creative space time that I give myself on Wednesday mornings. And I was doing alright with it and even plugging away through a hard season in May. And then July hit.

I haven’t gotten back to it since July rocked me. I feel like I’m still coming out of a mental fog that overtook me in July, and I haven’t had the chance to work hard at clearing that mental fog either. And I’m getting frustrated and annoyed by it.

My awesome counselor keeps reminding me to extend myself compassion, so that’s what I’m trying to do in this season. It might sound weird that cutting myself a break on all of this will actually get me motivated in the long run, but she’s right. The more pressure I put on myself the more I collapse, and I think that would just murder the project completely. Offering myself the compassion to pause and just not have it in me for a season is keeping the project alive, even if it’s not growing in the way I would like it to grow.

I’m learning that offering yourself compassion is something that lots of the people in my circles struggle with often. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by smart, talented, driven people more often than not. It’s a great crowd that keeps me sharp and motivated myself. But here’s what I’m learning about us: we create our own stress. Actually we might produce more stress for ourselves than anything else we’re creating in our lives. And the people I hang out with are productive too, and they produce a lot of content, actions, projects, products, etc. So it’s not like we are letting the stress stop us, but you know what I’ve decided? That stress is really unnecessary and unkind.

My crappy July forced me to reassess a lot of stuff in my life. And one of the biggest realizations that I came to is that I’m really tired of being stressed out by silly things. And what I mean by “silly things” is the unnecessary stress we impose on ourselves for not being fast enough, good enough, whatever enough that we hold over on ourselves. All of these lack-of-enough judgements we impose on ourselves are really stemmed out of the fact that we are stingy with compassion, and maybe our focus should just be to be compassionate enough to exist full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Qualities that I have a hard time maintaining with self-imposed stress takes over.

Embarrassingly enough for me, because I thought I had long overcome it, every time my counselor looks at me and says, “Well Bonni that’s ok because you’re only human.” I cringe a little bit. We stinking hate admitting that we’re human. Even us “born again” types. We hate it. We want to be more than that. We want to be a bit of a savior, and we surely don’t want saving.

What’s ironic in my experience so far, is that the more I admit my humanness, the less I need saving, and I can offer (not impose) a lot more. The more I’m ok with what I can and can’t do for someone, the more beneficial what I can do becomes. The more I say “No,” the more powerful and effective my “Yes!” becomes.

Also when I have offered more compassion to myself, it becomes more natural to extend that offer of compassion beyond myself authentically. I’m not acting out of guilt, obligation, or passive aggressiveness (I admit it ok! geeze!), instead I’m acting out of genuine empathy, love, and grace.

Offering myself compassion sounds like it should be really easy to do. And falling for this lie actually makes offering myself compassion 8 million times more difficult. Continually giving yourself compassion is hard. Especially if you find yourself in contexts like I find myself. I mentioned my highly driven group of friends and family. They are awesome, and at the same time they can make it really difficult for me to offer myself compassion. Not because they are horrible, malicious people who don’t want me to be compassionate to myself so don’t assume that. But having the groups of people around me that I have makes it difficult to offer myself compassion for a couple of reasons:

  1. They too don’t offer themselves any compassion. Their standards are high. And though they would offer me all the grace and leniency in the world if I asked for it, but I know they would just take on my slack themselves to ensure that they are continuing to live up to their own high standards. There’s room for me to take a break, to get some grace, to slow down, but not for them. And because we humans aren’t dumb, we can sense this inner reality in our peers, and we stifle the compassion we want to give to ourselves, because we don’t want our peers to get the brunt of judgement from themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

  2. I want them to succeed so I will bend over backwards for them so that they can. Even if someone in my life is good at cutting themselves a break and acknowledging their humanness, I still love them so much that I don’t want anything to slow them down. This comes out for me a lot with my son. He’s 2, he’s not really creating a lot of stress for himself these days (ah the joys of toddlerhood), but for his success, I have no room for error. I’m not sure what sort of ego in myself thinks that my weakness or humanness can totally derail another human’s life, but I sure let myself think that from time-to-time and I find myself bringing down the hammer on my own head on my child’s behalf more often than not.

When it comes down to it, the last reason that offering myself compassion is really hard is that it’s a new habit. And I’ve had the old habit for nearly 30 years. I trip myself up when I question the benefits of this new habit and if the practice is worth it. I trip myself up when my new habit shows up visibly to those in my life. Will they judge me or think I’m lazy? Will they stop depending on me? Will they cut me out of their lives because I’m not willing to try to be superhuman anymore? And then I trip myself up when I wonder if I’m even worth all this grace and compassion at my core. I have to linger on Scriptures that remind me who I am and how loved I am in order to combat this one. So much so that I don’t find myself in many other places in Scripture at times, and then I want to judge myself for not being diverse enough in Scripture. I have a hard time allowing myself to just dwell in the lesson that God wants me to learn in this season. See how all of this self-imposed judgement is a hard habit to break?

I’m catching myself more often these days. Extending myself the grace and compassion that God wants me to have and offers to me Himself. Slowly I see myself coming more alive than I’ve been in a while, more present with both pleasure and pain because they are both part of the human experience. More accepting of my strengths and my short-comings, because having each of those things is also part of being human. I think it’s going well. I’ll keep you posted.

Hey, in case you need to hear it today: It’s ok that you’re feeling the way that you feel. It’s ok to take that nap. It’s ok to miss that deadline every once in a while. It’s ok. You’re human, and you’re worthy of your own compassion.