Recently during a sister art night, I decided to work on a hand lettering project and created the pieces pictured here. They were phrases I needed in front of my face, so I figured what better way than to hang them on my wall? And they do help . . . the times that I actually look at them.
But as I’ve focused on the words be kind, I’ve realized more and more how unkind I am to myself. Somehow, somewhere in my formative years I picked up the idea that it was good and admirable to treat myself as less than everyone else; less important, less talented, less worthy, less likable. And this less-than mindset became something of a spiritual goal, if you will. A mark of goodness.
Where in the world?
As I’ve battled years of depression, going easy on myself hasn’t been, well, easy. I want to pull myself up, put on a game face and charge forward into life, accomplishing, doing, overcoming. Whatever. These wants make me an uptight, stressed-out, cranky, difficult and even hardened person.
A lot of this wrong thinking (I believe) stems from wrong teaching in the Christian community. (Whether you claim to be a Christ-follower or not, this lesson is for us all, so please do bear with me a moment.) We are told that joy is spelled Jesus-Others-You, putting the self last. It’s just one of countless sayings that get misconstrued and abused, creating in many–perhaps mostly women–a doormat approach to life.
But listen to these words of Jesus from Matthew 11:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(The Message Bible, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson; italics mine)
These words are eminently kind and filled with gentleness and compassion. I am told to be kind . . . to myself.
Sometimes kindness means sneaking away to Starbucks for an hour alone to readjust my attitude (and spare my poor family from the crazy woman I’ve become that morning). Sometimes it means letting go of doing to concentrate on simply being. Sometimes it means pausing to address the automatic thoughts running through my head, correcting them, and reframing them with truth. Sometimes it even means reaching out and asking someone else to speak kind and gentle words to me, because in that moment I am incapable of speaking them to myself.
In each of it’s varied forms, kindness isn’t just for others. It’s for you.
It’s for me.
Today I will be kind to myself.