Having Compassion for Oneself

Self-compassion is giving yourself kindness, empathy, understanding and forgiveness.  Psychologist Kristen Neff has touched many with her research on self-compassion.  After learning of her work, I was moved to feature self-compassion on this blog.  I hope you find what follows encouraging for you, or for someone you know who needs it.

Imagine an elderly woman walking along any street in America.  You can’t see her face because her head is bowed over a can of cold beans.  The beans are her meal today.  You may feel her need.  You may imagine the tiny room she lives in, the crummy neighborhood, the crime there, and the danger she lives with, day in and day out.  Perhaps you feel for her.

Now think of the need you have inside.  You know it’s there, but you may not have really looked at it before.  Does it have a name?  You may have expected others in your life to meet your need.  They may have failed you.  They may have ignored or neglected you, or forgotten you.

But you did not deserve to be ignored.  Yet, that may have happened.

What have you always needed?  What is it you need right now?  It may be to feel secure inside, to like yourself, to have good friends, to have a more comfortable life, a better job, or to feel you belong, to feel you are worthy of love, to feel you fit in, or to have some of the good things life has to offer, for you and for your children and family.

Or, you may have stopped caring, or almost stopped caring.

Right now try to talk to yourself with kindness.  You can do this silently or out loud.  Tell yourself that you are worth it, worth being loved and cared for–respected, even honored.  If the dear lady in the photo is worth it, my friend, so are you.

Peace.

(No copyright infringement of this photo is intended.)

 

Of Philosophy, God and Iced Cream

What connection could a love poem have to faith?  Or what possible connection does an iced cream cone have to the spiritual life?  Leaving my books one Sunday afternoon, I brought my wife an iced cream cone with a four-line poem I had composed just for her.  Presenting the frosty cone, I read this aloud for the very first time:

             You are a perfect wife
                      Giving me a perfect life.
                                 This I give you which of
                                           My love is but a clue.

She likes poetry but she loves iced cream, so I always suspected that she liked the iced cream cone more, but I got over it.  Now let’s shift our gears, from poetry to philosophy.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche announced “God is dead” in the nineteenth century, which created quite a stir.  Nietzsche suffered from severe desperation, I think.  Probably listened to too much Wagner.  He threw philosophy into a general panic, forcing thinkers to search for life’s meaning without God.
They thought they found their solution in a movement called post-modernism, writings that were a kind of ointment to treat the scalding awareness of the absurdity of life.  Fortunately in 1942 the French philosopher, scholar and literary romantic, Albert Camus, published a brilliant essay titled, The Myth of Sisyphus.  In that essay he described the Absurd Man, who sought meaning in a God-less universe.  I read the essay with great interest.
Camus reminded me very poetically that life seemed worse than a cosmic joke, for it had no presumed author anymore.  Camus concluded that the only important question was “Why not commit suicide?” due to this vacuous and tedious situation.
So it became quite a difficult challenge to rise perkily in the morning, with those depressing variables halting the spring in your steps.  Philosophers didn’t shake up America as badly as they had in Europe.  Over here we were still able to whistle a happy tune, as Europe grew more grumpy and dour.
No Message in the Galaxy Worth Reading

Where did this leave the human species as a whole, as we rolled anxiously into the twentieth century?  It led to the Lost Generation, with Gertrude Stein and friends.  And later on it led to popular fiction, like A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and films like Dr. Strangelove, which are satirical treatments of the absurdity of human existence.  Songs were also written such as “Message in a Bottle” by Sting and The Police.  I connected with the song’s lament of private desperation and societal alienation, because that was my own existence: it was desperation and despair in the form of a catchy Pop tune!
Life can be really traumatic inside of us, that’s no secret, for sure, when we can admit it.   In this century it’s by now our ideological inheritance.  At birth we’re tossed into the exceedingly unbalanced, violent and unpredictable twenty-first century, where we have global media daily pounding out a dizzying and unending chain of catastrophes, to which we tend to become numb.  We are then forced to reach out for the curatives solicited and pandered by the channels of our Addictive Society.  But let’s move on, lest we despair!
What the World Needs Now

As we all know, love is a very powerful because we need it, a great deal of it, especially if you believe the cosmos is a soundless, meaningless void.  I’m not much for the Big Bang Theory explaining things, because I disagree with Stephen Hawking that the universe doesn’t need God.  Theories about the origin of the universe abound, and at the top of that list are Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution, which  touts the miserable notion that we all arose out of some primordial soup.
Instead, please consider “God’s Unfathomable Mercy and Love.”  Okay, that notion might smack against your hard-nosed realism rather violently.  Prove it to me!  It’s a part of living in these spiritually impoverished times.  Or maybe it’s not so hard for you to conceive of such a Being who IS love.  This blog has for its’ logo the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a symbol of Christ’s love for all of us.  The thorns around his heart symbolize his suffering for us and the flames bursting forth symbolize the intensity of that love, so great that it called for the ultimate sacrifice.
Consider, why should God, omnipotent and entirely self-sufficient, the living source of life itself, the totality of all that is pure and holy, create human beings, animals, nature, the earth and other worlds among untold galaxies and quasars, unless he loved them first?  He got absolutely nothing for his efforts, other than the joy that every giver receives, which is the joy of expressing his love to his beloved.
Conclusion
So then perhaps it is vital, dear reader, that you really look for the Mercy of God, to remove the anguish from your life, as I had to.  Consider that suffering, or pathos, is less painful than anguish, because our suffering eases when we accept it, if we choose to.  Anguish is far worse because it’s a state of non-acceptance.  Anguish festers with “deep disappointment, fruitless longing, unavailing remorse.”  Pretty tough.  God’s Mercy is the antidote for anguish.  An antidote is “a medicine taken or given to counteract a particular poison.”  Believing in nothing is slow poison leading to despair.
Discovering the one, true God, on the other hand, was and is my antidote for the dry philosophical treatises I tortured myself with for so long (Sisyphus was the exception).  That is why I am yours truly, Ron Houssaye, addicted to mercy.
Thank you for stopping by.

A Special Invitation to You

A therapist’s number one job is to relieve or reduce the pain of a person, couple or family, normally though a proper assessment, a diagnosis, followed by a course of treatment.  Often, especially in the cases of abuse and trauma, those suffering carry the burden of shame.  Therapy is a form of mercy, as is forgiveness.  God is a Father first, but I also think of Him as a Divine Therapist, whose primary intervention is mercy, which the psalmist tells us “endures forever.”
What is mercy?  Mercy is the goodness of God, His free act of choosing persons to receive His grace, leading those persons to Him.
When one bestows mercy upon another, they spare them a consequence of misfortunes that otherwise would have come upon them.  These may be consequences they had coming, such as embarrassments, humiliations or the baggage of emotional pain owing to shaming they did not deserve, even errors they brought upon themselves.  These are forgiven and forgotten.
The guilt which ordinarily would have befallen them is removed when mercy is given.  Such healing can be delivered by just listening compassionately with all of your attention, focused only on that person.
The truly merciful act signifies a virtual nullification of that which has shamed someone.  “Forget about it, it’s okay,” is heard someplace in the wounded heart of that individual.
This is what they hear:  Don’t worry about it.  You’re fine.  You’re okay.
God sends mercy and grace directly or indirectly, through anyone, you or me.  Consider, then, why should God, omnipotent and entirely self-sufficient, invite someone into the heartbeat of his being, literally the center of his heart?  After all, God is the living source of life itself, the totality of all that is pure and holy, who needs nothing outside of Himself, yet chooses to create beings in His image.
There can be only one explanation.  Love.  He gets absolutely nothing for His efforts except the joy that every giver gets, which is the joy of expressing their love.
God’s Mercy imbues a special kind of meaning to anything.  In fact, in ordinary human experience, when we choose to inject the name “God” into a story or event, it elevates it to the extraordinary.  “God, I can’t believe that actually happened to you!” is exclaimed without consciously thinking about God, but nonetheless God belongs in it somehow because there’s something mysteriously wonderful or amazing about it.
You may have tossed God out of your life, either recently or a long time past.  Though you’ve been disappointed by something you feel He’s done or has failed to do for you,  give Him another chance.  He gave me many, many chances to rise above my shame, and He will do that for you, too, if you ask Him.