This is the time of year when many people are thinking about change, resolutions, new habits, and new beginnings. Whatever you are attempting to do differently, I invite you to take a journey of self-compassion while doing so.
In her book Making a Change for Good, Zen Buddhist teacher Cheri Huber describes the difference between self-discipline and self-improvement. She states that “Self-improvement…is based on a false premise (that there is something wrong with you) and results in suffering.” Sure, self-discipline is important in leading a life that allows us be who we want to be, and who God designed us to be. But this is different from believing we are inherently flawed, that something is wrong with us and needs to be fixed. This kind of self-beating leads us further away from connecting to God’s love; we hide our faces in shame rather than turn to God with an open heart. Transformation can and does happen when we are healed and made whole. However, and this is important to remember, even up until your time of healing, you are still worthy of love. God loves you just as you are, and longs for the connection that brings wholeness. You do not need to earn this.
When there is something you want to change about yourself, it is important to remember this belovedness. First, change does not happen simply by beating yourself up or putting yourself down. I am sure that some have experienced changed habits by doing this, but what about the emotional suffering that comes with it? Does that suffering reflect God’s goodness of creation? Second, if you believe you are already loved, you will be that much more willing to open up and let God in to touch those places that need healing, so you can be the person you long to be. A friend of mine, who is a student of the aforementioned Cheri Huber, taught me this wonderful phrase to start the day: “Your goodness is already established. How do you want to be today?”
As followers of Christ, we believe in new life and the hope of the Resurrection. This belief is rooted in love. Jesus modeled compassion; shouldn’t we share in that compassion toward ourselves as well as others? As you work toward change for yourself, don’t forget to call on the One who can make all things new.