By Kathleen Ririe
“What if I should discover that…I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness– that I am the enemy who must be loved?”
–C. G. Jung
As Christmas approaches, in Christian religious traditions we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who is celebrated as the Savior of the World. According to the Bible, He was perfect and gave His life for humankind, that if they would come into relationship with Him and abide by His doctrine, they too would receive everlasting life through His gracious Atoning sacrifice. This is good news right?
Well, for those with Scrupulosity (a subtype of OCD involving religious or moral obsessions) this message can at times feel like a two-edged sword. On the one hand- a message of hopefulness about one’s possibilities in eternity. Yet on the other hand- it can feel like a message of hopelessness as the Christian with Scrupulosity’s mind insists that their flaws, sins, and imperfections act as an immutable barrier to full relationship with Jesus and the advantages of His perfect grace. Although, those suffering with Scrupulosity may be told by their religious leaders that Christ doesn’t expect perfection in the form of flawlessness and instead invites us to perfection in the form of wholeness (in our relationship with Him), the OCD mind is relentless at highlighting the natural negativity bias of the human brain.
Is there hope? How can the mind suffering with Scrupulosity combat this ever-raging torrent of self-criticism? Recent research shows that one answer may lie in the practicing of self-compassion. In fact, some studies even found that poor self-compassion was a predictor of Scrupulosity. Whether dealing with a mental health challenge or not, self-compassion is linked with a myriad of positive physical and emotional benefits. So this Christmas, why not give yourself the gift of self-compassion? After all, Jesus himself taught to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
What is self-compassion?
Compassion is simply noticing suffering in another and having a desire to relieve it. Self-compassion is exactly this, but turned inward. Dr. Kristin Neff, a renowned self-compassion expert, explains that self-compassion has 3 components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Let’s take a closer look at each one..
- Self-kindness vs. Self judgment– giving yourself kindness, gentleness, and hope instead of harsh judgment and coldness
- Common Humanity vs. Isolation– recognizing that suffering is universal, we ALL make mistakes, we are all in this together
- Mindfulness vs. Over Identification– what we resists persists, so we can try to be aware of our pain and make space for it, but also we don’t need to allow our suffering to define us
Self-compassion is NOT:
Some worry that in giving themself compassion they will become entitled, complacent, or lazy. When developing self-compassion it is important to know what self-compassion IS NOT.
- A rationale for doing harm to others
In Fact, the current research shows that Individuals with HIGH Self-compassion tend to:
- Be more self-confident and motivated to improve after failure
- Take greater personal responsibility for mistakes
- Have more strength to cope with challenging life circumstances
- Experiences more caring personal relationships
- Healthier body image and reduced eating disorder behaviors
- Fewer problems related to narcissism, social comparison, contingent self-worth, emotional instability
How Can I Build More Self Compassion?
Each day there are many opportunities to build self compassion by simply being aware of yourself and asking yourself the question “what do I need right now?”. Then have the courage to respond to your suffering by giving yourself what you need. Sometimes this may be as simple as a deep breath, a kind thought, the benefit of the doubt, a quick meditation, or a walk. Other times you may find that what you really need is to reach out to another for support. Dr. Neff’s website has many other awesome suggestions to learn and build self compassion such as writing yourself compassionate letters, finding your own supportive phrases, and several great guided meditations to increase mindfulness. You can access these resources on self-compassion.org under “Practices”. You can also learn more about self-compassion with this complete module from MyBestSelf101.org.
“As children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become…the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also salvation from our own persistent self-criticism.”
–Elder Jeffrey R. Holland,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
12 DAYS OF SELF-COMPASSION
The antidote for the poison of self-criticism is self-compassion. As Christmas approaches this season instead of allowing Scrupulosity to rob you of the joy of a meaningful, compassionate relationship with Jesus AND WITH YOURSELF- choose to give the gift of Self-Compassion! For the next 12 days choose a self-compassion exercise to practice each day. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly- even just remembering to be compassionate to yourself IS practicing self-compassion. What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, than by giving yourself the transcendent gift of self-compassion?