Self-compassion and limitations

“The moments when we meet our limitations are often the times when we struggle the most with self-compassion.”

It has been an exciting week in the Davis household.

On Tuesday, we welcomed our first grand child, Georgia Lynn Burleson-Davis.  Isn’t she beautiful? Though 3 weeks earlier than we anticipated, her birth went marvelously well and her parents are taking spectacular care of her… so my husband and I are trying to support them in their many sleepless nights with meals and a few hours of holding and burping each day.

Also last week, I discovered that I have some pretty significant food sensitivities that may be a part of my ongoing, unresolved back pain. (read: high-motivation to restrict my diet) Though I have been off gluten for a while, I am now also eliminating all dairy, most grains, eggs, beef, pork, shellfish, bananas, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, MSG and glutamates of all kinds.  So, I am not eating out at all, reading lots of labels, and cooking everything from scratch.

Add to that, my mother is scheduled for cataract surgery next week and so we began a ritual of three times daily eye drops last Saturday.  Thankfully, my brother and sister-in-law are coming to town to help with that one.

But in the meanwhile, I find myself in the midst of four generations of women needing extra care all at the same time.

I share all this not as a lament (okay, maybe there’s a little lament about the diet thing) but mostly as a way of illustrating the intimate connection between limitation and self-compassion.

The moments when we meet our limitations are often the times when we struggle the most with self-compassion.  We feel as if there is not room for softness or tenderness with ourselves. We tell ourselves that love means barreling through. We tell ourselves that we have a moral obligation to gut it out. We make the choice to exceed our limitations a “should” in an effort to avoid the humility that comes through facing and honoring our limitations. Many of us even make limitations shameful…. but that’s another story altogether. We try to actually create a different reality by forcing it upon ourselves, by the sheer strength of our will.  In my experience, such “man-handling” rarely works and generally carries a real though not immediate cost. Furthermore, refusing to respect our limitations and meet them with self-compassion it is not the pattern Jesus offers us or the one Scripture affirms for women.

  • Jesus took time to be in public, but also took time with friends and by himself.
    • 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5
  • Jesus affirmed Mary‘s choice to sit instead of trying to serve and learn at the same time.
  • Hannah not only said “No” to Eli the priest, but also to her husband when he wanted her to go to the temple before she was ready.
  • Even in Naomi’s renaming of herself from Naomi meaning “pleasant” to “Mara” or “bitter,” I hear a willingness to own the emotional limitations of her grief.

In each example, we see self-compassion lived through an acceptance of human limitations. These stories invite us to learn the wisdom of living optimally and fully present to each moment rather than the less sustainable choice of living maximally, a choice that often leads to an exhausted, less-than-present version of ourselves.

So, living self-compassion for me means that this is my first blog in a week.  Though that is a disappointment to my plans and agendas, it’s an important victory in so many other ways.

Where are you being invited to face, respect, and meet your limitations with self-compassion rather than denial or a hard heart?

Repentance redefined: Giving up exhaustion and opening to change
Being prayer
Welcome back
Repentance redefined: standing tall
  • Pastor Pilgrim

    Yes, Georgia is so beautiful. What a blessing to your family!! Take very good care of yourself!

    • Janet Davis


  • Maureen Sebek

    I love this! Very challenging to me. I am not good at self-care, self-compassion, softness and tenderness toward me. But, I am willing to learn! I so appreciate your gentle words of wisdom and honesty. I know, for me, I need another voice to encourage me in this direction. I love that Jesus did that for Mary and gave her permission to be real, hungry, and in need. Thank you, Janet. And congratulations on the birth of your beautiful new granddaughter!


    • Janet Davis

      I am that same way, too, Maureen. I think we need to be that voice for one another and the communities where we live including in the church!

  • NancyW

    Congratulations, Janet on the birth of your granddaughter! It’s interesting that you said “living self-compassion for me means that this is my first blog in a week.” God has a wonderful way of sorting things out in all our lives. This is the first blog that I have actually read all the way through (sorry), but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Thanks for your wisdom, your compassion for all women, and your being YOU!….

    • Janet Davis

      You are welcome! And thanks for your honesty… and, sincerely, no need to apologize! I really believe that’s where it needs to start… just being honest about our limits with each other and realizing that others are not nearly as upset as we might imagine… I am thankful you read this one!

  • Leslie Collins

    I can’t believe you’re a grandma!!! Love the name they chose and many happy, baby filled days ahead for you and Bob. Will pass on to Leigh and others, Leslie

    • Janet Davis

      My middle name is Lynn like Georgia’s… it is such a honor!

  • Liz Gregory

    This is so perfect for me today, thank you.

    I have been struggling this summer, and especially the past couple weeks with my limitations, guilt, and getting things done. When I take time for myself, something else that I am expected to take care of doesn’t get done. OR something gets done poorly, and my meticulous self gets annoyed that I wasn’t there to make sure it got done correctly and the guilty that I didn’t take care of everything, followed by resentment that I have to be the one doing it in order to have it done right.

    I’ve also been dealing with the food restrictions – casein (a milk protein) and gluten for me – and cooking with those restrictions in a way that my children will eat is often stressful. Mom has been having back problems and the stress of the current public education climate, and my grandmother is in later stages Alzheimer’s, having lived beyond the 4 years (average) after diagnosis.

    I can’t afford to have limitations, but I keep bumping into them.

    • Janet Davis

      I hear you, Liz! So well said… I especially liked

      “I can’t afford to have limitations, but I keep bumping into them.”

  • Lori Wenner

    Congratulations to all! She is beautiful. Thank you for delaying this blog–I was putting myself into “suck it up and get it done” mode when I really need to be kinder to myself and slow down. As always, your presence is a blessing in my life.

  • Janet Davis

    That’s such a challenging (and wonderful) part of my work… I get to (have to) practice what I preach!

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  • Grandmother

    Thank you again, for this blog! I’m late in commenting on this post so I hope you’ll still see it, but CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of your first grandchild! I was reading some other posts of yours this morning and followed a link that got me back here. Something about 4 generations of women needing extra care. I.AM.THERE. But as I read your posts, I realize that despite my efforts at self-care and self-compassion at this time in my life, that I still feel a twinge of shame for needing the extra support (therapy) that I do right now. Thank you for that simple phrase – 4 generations of women needing extra care. Yes, I am right there with them. And it is a self-compassionate thing to go after the support I need to keep taking care of myself. Beautiful message. Thank you.

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