Recently, a friend cut her finger while she was chopping vegetables. She grabbed the hurt finger and said, “That was stupid. People who do this sort of thing are stupid.” I was shocked. She is one of the most compassionate people I know. How could she talk to herself that way? After all, it was only a mistake.
So I wondered: what do I say to myself when I make mistakes? I have been listening carefully, and I am shocked. Usually it is some version of my friend’s “That was stupid,” repeated and rehearsed, especially in the middle of the night, until I feel miserable. I don’t want to do that to myself anymore, so now I practice treating myself like a friend instead. I say things like, “It’s okay, Bets. Everybody makes mistakes.” Compassion feels whole a lot better than shame.
“People who live in shame come to believe that it is not okay to make a mistake. . . . But it is human to make mistakes. . . . ‘Thou shalt not be human’ is the command of shame.” Earnie Larsen and Carol Hegarty
“[C]lothe yourselves with compassion. . . .” Colossians 3:12