Practice on yourself–Compassion

  • How kind are you to yourself?
  • If you judged others like you judge yourself, would you have any friends?
  • When times are hard, do you show yourself the same tenderness you’d show another?

Compassion for yourself is Step 3 in Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (all 12 steps listed below). I’m working on one step per month for my One Year 2014: Compassion.


If we really loved others as we loved ourselves, how would that look?

What I discovered is that while I can be gentle with myself when times are hard, I’m also very judgmental of my faults when I fail. And while I’m never to be satisfied with my sinful nature, I’m also not to condemn myself for it since I am in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Accepting God’s grace for ourselves just like we preach it to others is one of the ways God transforms us into who he wants us to be.

Another way to increase our self-compassion is to acknowledge to ourselves the suffering we’ve been through. When we deny our own circumstances, we shut off opportunities for healing (and we also won’t be as compassionate on others in similar situations).

Armstrong says that while we may feel embarrassed by the triviality of our own suffering compared to suffering we see in the world, it is still real to us. Don’t discount it.

“Make a deliberate effort to inhabit those moments fully and send a message of encouragement and sympathy to your former self. The object of this exercise is not to leave you wallowing in self-pity. The vivid memory of painful times past is a reservoir on which you can draw when you try to live according to the Golden Rule.”

She suggests you “draw on the warmth of friendship that you know exists potentially in your mind and direct it to yourself.”

Ironically, the more we treat ourselves like we would treat others, the less focused we become on ourselves, transcending our self-obsession that causes us (and others) unnecessary pain.

Practice on yourself. Be compassionate to you; it will help you be more compassionate to others. 

* * *


How can you show yourself compassion this week? How would that end up benefiting others as well? Please share.

The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Karen Armstrong):

  1. Learn about compassion
  2. Look at your own world
  3. Compassion for yourself
  4. Empathy
  5. Mindfulness
  6. Action
  7. How little we know
  8. How should we speak to one another?
  9. Concern for everybody
  10. Knowledge
  11. Recognition
  12. Love your enemies

20 thoughts on “Practice on yourself–Compassion

  1. floyd

    Interesting thoughts. While I seek to be gentle and fair with the world, I demand more of myself and am not gentle with myself at all… Never even thought of that… I might have to dig a little deeper! Thanks, Lisa.

  2. Linda@Creekside

    Yes, sadly, we are, way too often, the harshest taskmasters of ourselves. We show little grace, we are quick to beat ourselves up, we are relentless in finding our own faults, and we live under a load of guilt and shame that paralyzes. The lies of the enemy hiss strong and we are swept up by His evil taunts.

    I bid him far from us today. He has no place in our lives. The Holy Spirit will be our convictor, comforter, lover. And HE will define who we are by His gentle grace.

    Hey, Lisa … you got me up on my soapbox on this Monday morn!!!


  3. Joe Pote

    Yes, many valuable lessons in having compassion for ourselves. I’ve made so many mistakes and had so many things wrong, I’ve been forced to learn self-compassion. And I see that as a healthy thing.

    It’s not about beating ourselves up over past mistakes. It’s about letting God use all of life’s circumstances to learn more compassion for both ourselves and others.

    Thank you, Lisa!

  4. Beth

    So interesting, Lisa! I’m going to check that book out next. I did the self-test and fared pretty well, but I do feel like this is an area that I need to grow in. I think compassion for ourselves is closely linked to the compassion we extend to others. So if I can’t extend it to myself, then I’m surely not going to extend it to others. This also dovetails into forgiveness, which is an area that I love to explore. Thanks for sharing about this! I’m excited to investigate it further, Lisa!

  5. Sherrey Meyer

    I love Karen Armstrong’s writings, but this is one I haven’t read yet. And I need to read it! I am hardest on myself. I have no problem extending compassion to others, but when it comes to taking a look at things I’ve done, I show no mercy! My husband is always pointing this out, but I always disagree with him on that one. Funny, huh? I do believe I need to get my hands on a copy of this book and read it cover-to-cover a few times and then dig deeply into Scripture as well. Thanks so much for “showing” me I can be kind to myself.

    Visited via Michelle’s linkup this morning!

  6. Jody Lee Collins

    These lines ring true, “Accepting God’s grace for ourselves just like we preach it to others is one of the ways God transforms us into who he wants us to be.”
    What a great word for the year, Lisa.

  7. Ugochi

    I can be very hard on myself when I fail… it is no wonder sometimes I am hard on others. I have long been working on going easy on others but first I have to go easy on myself.
    This is truth Lisa, thanks for sharing with us, have a super blessed day!

  8. David Rupert

    My pastor has the word “Perfect” tattooed on his forearm. It’s a reminder that God sees him through a whole different set of lenses and keeps him from self-flagellation. I used to call myself “stupid” when I made a mistake at work. It was in good nature, but a friend of mine pulleed my away and said, “Is that what Jesus thinks? If not, then stop with the names!” He was right. Good post here Lisa

  9. Betty Draper

    Yeah this is me too, too hard on myself. I have started picking a blog post daily on my fb wall , today I picked yours because it spoke personally to my heart in a very needful way. Thank you Lisa.

  10. laura

    I often struggle with this, Lisa, as many do. One thing I often tell my patients is to pretend their best friend or child were sitting in their wheelchair, going through what they are going through right now. What would you say to them, I ask. It’s remarkable how this simple role play is often a breakthrough to self-compassion. Thanks for this reminder.

  11. bluecottonmemory

    My older boys tell me, “You’re easier on the younger ones.” (each one has said that about the one directly younger) – but I think it is like you said – we learn to be more compassionate, more understanding – expand and understand more! As I have learned how God loves and sees me, I have been better able to love my boys unconditionally – oh, yes – the more I find grace from God for me – the more I give it to others! Your post has been a pat on the back – a “keep-on, keep-on” – Thank you, Lisa! I always love what your heart brings here!

  12. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I think I am harder on myself than on anyone else. That’s kind of sad. If I can’t be kind to me, I’ll run out of gas being kind to others. The well of compassion needs to be deep, there are so many people who need that in the world.

    Practicing on my self is actually a way to love others. I’ll forgive and let go, and make room to be filled with grace to spread myself more. I like that a lot! Great post for me Lisa. Thank you!

  13. Dolly@Soulstops

    Oh, Lisa,
    how I needed this reminder today…yesterday, I spoke with a friend and afterwards, she said she felt “tender” towards me, and it made me realize I needed to be more tender toward myself….yes, practicing self-compassion is not self-obsession…Thank you 🙂

  14. Dawn St Amand Paoletta

    Looks like a wonderful read, and journey. I love your slow, deliberate and insightful unwrapping of this practice, Lisa. I look forward to check in on your year of Compassion. I think when we refuse to receive compassion- we really stunting our our ability to give it, and as you say we do need to concously choose to do it. If we are hard on ourselves, we will be hard on others. There is no getting around it. We can’t freely give what we refuse ourselves. I am still learning…but this is also what God has shown me in time. SOmetimes we think we are hardest on ourselves, but I guarentee if we are, we lack a graciousness toward others in word, deed OR inner attitude. God help us grow in compassion to ourselves that we may be authentically compassionate toward others. Great post, my friend.

  15. tcavey

    Sometimes I find it hardest to forgive myself, to have compassion on my myself, to be a friend to myself. But God’s love helps me not only Love others, but love myself as He does.

    Great thoughts.

  16. Caleb Suko

    It’s so hard to evaluate how kind or hard you really are on yourself. I find it helpful to get my wife’s opinion or the opinion of someone who knows me well. I also find that there are certain areas of life that I’m too easy on myself and certain areas that I am too hard on myself.

  17. kel rohlf

    Lisa- What a timely message…the direct correlation between how compassionate I am with myself reflects in my relationships…thanks for this insightful look into the mirror…I have been contemplating the Scripture “love others as you love yourself”…I often get out of balance loving others but not caring for myself…And the three loves together make for such healthy relating…love God wholeheartedly, love my self like God loves me and that love will overflow to others! Great post! Thanks-Kel

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