Self-compassion and limitations

Self-compassion and limitations July 30, 2012

“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?

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