A few thoughts on how to release regret and learn to live (II)

[You may wish to read Part I first.]

Self-compassion

A few weeks ago, a friend wrote: “I find it so hard to let the past be the past. It can churn away at my heart.” I wondered what he meant but we didn’t have a chance to talk about it. I sent him a piece by Leo on why we have regret.

His reply was a beauty: “Regrets stem from my refusal to accept myself as I am. A fundamental quest, puzzle. Do I accept myself as I am, and by implication, the rest of us, all of my past and all of my future? … I wish I could engineer grace?”

Now, this man is deeply compassionate and loving. He does good work in the world. He is a fine father. He cares. He is unfailingly affirming of others.

Kristin Neff asserts that there is a correlation between being compassionate towards others and lacking compassion for oneself. It may be true that we demonise others with the things we cannot accept in ourselves. It is also true that some of the nicest people forgive in others what they cannot forgive in themselves.

In her book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong suggests Compassion for Yourself is fundamental.

Before you are ready to ’embrace the whole world’, you must focus on yourself. Begin by drawing on the warmth of friendship that you know exists potentially in your mind and direct it to yourself. Notice how much peace, happiness and benevolence you possess already. Make yourself aware of how much you need and long for loving friendship.
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I have said this before. You know what love and kindness and friendship feel like. You have felt it often towards those you care about. You know what it feels like in this body, perhaps a warm, open, embracing in your heart.

Extend this feeling to yourself.

[See Part III.]

2 thoughts on “A few thoughts on how to release regret and learn to live (II)

  1. This reminds me so much of something I think the church has missed, or misunderstood for years. When Jesus ‘summarised’ the Ten Commandments (recorded in the book of Exodus in the Bible) to just two, he followed the ancient tradition of the Jewish Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4f) for the first one; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’. Then he added a second, which most people think is ‘love your neighbour’. But in fact he added; ‘and … love your neighbour as yourself.’ It is those last two words the church has too often ignored, or conveniently glossed over – even denied. The thrust of Jesus’ words is clear – if you do not love yourself, how can you love your neighbour? Clearly we can love ourself to the exclusion of others; that is egotism. But if we truly learn to love the self created and loved by God, then that love will overflow to others.

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