being a better friend to ourselves

 

“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.” – Jesus

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it’s always funny to me how we focus on the first parts of this passage with a vengeance–love God, love others.  but the one that gets dismissed all of the time is that Jesus tells us to “love others as ourselves.”  maybe that’s why so much of the world is so messed up–we are actually doing that.  passing on to others what we feel inside.  and my experience has been that most people i know don’t like themselves, let alone love themselves.  in fact, i will go so far as saying that many people who have been christians for a long, long time actually hate themselves.

and i think this is an important thing that’s wrong with the world & the church, really.  we have not been taught properly how to really get at the root of so much of our problem–how we really feel about ourselves.

about 4 1/2 years ago i started a monthly group that i originally called “ex good christian women breakfast club.”  it’s a long story on how it’s evolved but it’s an eclectic group of women who for all kinds of reasons have rocked the typical-christian-woman-boat.  it’s one of my favorite things to do each month & every time we are done i am left with a little more courage, a little more hope, a little more challenge. each time a different friend facilitates, and last month was a focus on how we actually treat ourselves.  we shared how we would never in a million years say to our friends what we say to ourselves.   i love what anne lamott says–“my mind is a bad neighborhood, i try not to go in there alone.” my friend had us take a little time and come up with some encouraging words for ourselves, things we needed to consider to love ourselves better, to be kinder & gentler to ourselves.  everyone hemmed and hawed and could think of all kinds of great things to say to other people.  but to ourselves, well, that’s a different story.

we figured it out.  everyone stretched and found things to remind themselves about.  this wasn’t just an exercise in affirmations.  it is a far deeper thing.  it is recognizing & respecting how bad of friends so many of us are to ourselves. i believe that men & women alike can be really toxic, unsafe, ugly friends to ourselves.  and out of our love for ourselves comes our real love for our neighbor. i have no doubt that in my journey as i have come to love & accept myself more freely & grace-ful-ly, i have been able to offer the same thing to others better.  this is a life-long process, and i believe fully that this side of heaven, i will always struggle with this. i will never fully be able to understand God’s love for me and what that really says about who i am.  but i truly believe this:  pure God-inspired self-love isn’t a bad thing or selfish or self-centered like so many of us have been taught.  and it doesn’t come in a rush because someone tosses a bible verse out at us and tells us we should believe it. it is far more complex than that.  i think healing can come, but it doesn’t come easy or cheap and it isn’t a once and for all. hopefully we’re always on a journey toward deeper understanding of who we really are & what that really means.  i do believe so much healing comes from true community & a container to explore the truth of how we really feel about ourselves instead of hiding & pretending.

this is why i feel so dedicated to safe pockets of healing community.  it’s not about naval-gazing and self-centeredness, like i have heard so many church-leaders say along the way.  loving ourselves is how we love others. so the better we take care of ourselves, the more hope, love, peace, joy, kindness, compassion we can offer the world.  the better friends we can be to ourselves, the better friends we can be to others.

the world is not crying out for more self-hatred.   the world is crying out for compassion & kindness, for better friends. i truly believe we can bring much more of it to our friends, our family, our neighbors, the world if we can offer much more of it to ourselves first.

so here’s what i put in my kindness box, some little reminders that i really need in my life right now. nothing earth-shattering, some might seem so simple to you; but for me, the harshness-to-myself comes a lot easier than kindness…

  • just show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome
  • so what?
  • who you are in your worst moment is not who you really are
  • just laugh.
  • let it go.
  • tomorrow is a new day, thank God!
  • who cares what they think?
  • just breathe.
  • what would you tell your friend right now?
  • “change the channel”
  • be gentle with yourself
  • you are loved just how you are
  • don’t take yourself too seriously
  • hey, you should be proud of yourself for even trying!
  • listen to your body!!!!

what do you need to put in yours?  what words of encouragement, kindness, reminder-to-love-yourself-well-and-be-a-good-friend-to-yourself-so-you-can-love-others-well-too do you need to keep in front of you right now?

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

7 Comments

  • Oh, I’m putting these on my little cards for my emergency kit so I have nice things to think about when those voices start up again!!! :0)

    Reply
  • Recently, in trying to recover from a divorce. I took a class called “Lose It For Life” which analyzes the spiritual aspects of inappropriate eating. It had a section on self talk. I began to realize that I was really hard on myself in what I said in my head. I sounded just like what my parents used to say to me.

    So I did two things:
    1. I disallowed the harsh criticism that was occurring in my head.
    2. I made up a pet name to call myself in my head to use to give myself encouraging remarks when I was down or was having a hard time moving.

    I am still surprised how much these two little things helped with how I felt. Kathy’s list of suggestions seems even more useful.

    Reply
  • I love this, Kathy. Especially the words from your kindness box. I think you would really like Brene Brown (www.ordinarycourage.com). She is a researcher who studies shame and authenticity. I am reading her most recent book called The Gifts of Imperfection. One of the hardest things for her to accept that she found out in her research is that we truly cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves. Most of us want to believe that we love others better than we love ourselves (especially our kids, right?!), but her research did not support that idea; how we treat ourselves ends up being what those around us receive more than what we say out loud to them.

    Kathy, I remember when you posted when your son graduated, how you had learned that one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to get yourself in a place to work on your own stuff. That goes right along with this. It’s one of our most loving acts toward God and others to learn to live on the inside what we want to be giving on the outside.

    Ok, I want to say everything about what I’ve learned from Dr. Brown, about how authenticity and courage are really just keeping making one choice at a time to be brave and be real in community–that encourages me a lot to let go of the times I fail to make those choices, and focus on making a little baby step in that direction in the next moment. Anyway, I won’t go on and on. Thanks for the post 🙂

    Reply
  • Kathy- this is so wonderfully expressed by you!!! I think the ways calvinism has been filtered down across the centuries deeply affects how we feel about ourselves, but also arminianism can too. One says we are totally depraved and deserve hell and why would God really love us…… the other says we need to work as hard as we can to be perfectly holy and moral and pure to be acceptable and have God declare us good and faithful servants.

    i think we get so caught up in wanting to escape ourselves we end up in the blame & shame hide and pretend game like you described, and all the time truly seeking to live honest and open Christ-following lives.

    i hope what you shared here expands all over kathy sooooooooo badly needed!!!! Hope all goes great with your back sweet friend!!!!

    Reply
  • tami – i’ve got to see what other good things are in your kit 🙂

    rebecca – thanks for sharing. isn’t it so interesting how those things get so stuck inside for so long. oh we need God’s healing & hope to learn new ones…

    christen – oh i need to check it out. i love the thought of “just one step at a time”, one day at a time, one moment at a time, of showing up, telling the truth, trusting God, letting go of the outcome. thanks for sharing!

    jeremy – i am glad you liked that one. it is one of my favs, too.

    robert – i agree, somehow we got a little whacked out along the way. i think all humans struggle with some of this stuff, regardless of faith, but i do believe that christians especially have some of these negative messages a little stronger. the always falling short, never measuring up thing has really wreaked a lot of havoc. thanks for your prayers & love, my friend.

    Reply
  • Thank you, Kathy, for these insights. Those of us with a church background may have noticed that so many churches have beat us over the head every week with the idea that we are awful sinners, a real mess. Somehow, the idea that God loves us very much and sent His Son because He loves us so much, gets pushed to the side.

    When I’m in a loving relationship with God, I can begin loving myself, and, in turn, others. That is such a short, simple sentence. However, I don’t remember ever hearing that in church. God loves us, warts and all. We can love ourselves, warts and all. Then we’re ready to love others, who like us are less than perfect. But God thinks that we, and they, are lovable. Like the old man from the often told story said “Yes, He is very fond of me.”

    Reply

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