Self-compassion and friends

 “…through the door of my friend’s compassion for me, self-compassion came and softened my heart…”

It was a simple note really, a text I got this morning from a dear friend:

 “Thinking of you this morning- sending a little love your way.”

Surprisingly, that short, thoughtful text message stirred up a great deal of unexpected emotion in me. You see, what was not said, but clearly understood, is that she’s sending me love because she knows how much I need it right now.  She is familiar with my pain journey which, at least for today, feels like the story of the woman with the hemorrhage

26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Though I haven’t spent all of our money, I am confident that I’ve spent as much money as I personally have made this year in my small business. In addition to time and energy and hope. And I am no better. Only worse. (All right, biomechanically, I am moving better, it’s just that my pain is worse.)

At first, I didn’t reply to my friend at all.  To reply meant to admit that I still hurt.  It meant I would be known, once again, as a needy person who is suffering right now.

I don’t want that identity.

I thought about pretending… but what’s the use of that?

So, I replied:

“Thank you friend. I don’t really want to respond because I don’t want to be known as the friend whose pain is not able to be explained and is not going away… But neither do I want to be alone in this reality so I will risk yet again being honest and hope that asking you to carry this with me is not asking too much.”

To not be alone, to be available for connection, is to be known authentically. To be known right now for me, is to be known as a woman struggling with pain. It’s not all of who I am, clearly, but it is a major piece.

I cried as I wrote because through the door of my friend’s compassion for me, self-compassion came and softened my heart… a heart I had not recognized as slowly growing hard  and stoic within me.

My tears also opened a new door of curiosity for me: if I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage, maybe she has some wisdom for me. One thing I know about her story is that she broke some rules to find her healing.  I am such a rule-follower; but I wondered if I needed to break some rules, too. The ones that came to mind are the rules that add to my own pain and suffering like the ones that say things like:

  • It’s not okay to be the needy one in relationship.
  •  It’s not okay to admit you hurt if you don’t have a clear indication of exactly what is wrong, external evidence to validate the pain.
  • It’s not okay to show up for work if you come with any distractions like pain.
  • It’s not okay to not work just because you hurt. (Yes, I have internal accusations on both sides of that one!)
  • It’s not okay to write about your pain on your blog.

Today, because of my friend’s kindness, I found the courage to break a few rules. I found a soft space within that allowed me to meet my pain with honesty and openness and compassion and to receive comfort from others, God, and even from myself.

I wonder if that’s a part of why Jesus had the woman with the hemorrhage come forward and tell her story.  Though she was healed, she still had to somehow deal with her whole history of pain. I wonder if she needed to not only experience physical healing but also the healing of the compassion of Jesus and others who heard and held her story of despair and pain as well as the miracle of her healing. I wonder if, in the retelling of her story in the presence of others, she found the tenderness of self-compassion as I did today, through the love of friends.

When has friendship opened a door for self-compassion within you?




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  • Pat Ford

    I am so sorry your pain isn’t getting any better. Will be praying for healing however it comes.

  • marygems

    I think I understand what you are saying here. When a kind and loving friend offers me compassion, I know it is well meant, but to accept it I must first acknowledge the pain I spend most of my life avoiding giving any attention to. To give it attention is to open a door I want to stay shut, because when I open it I cannot stuff everything back inside and I feel like I am a walking wounded person who has had heart surgery performed by the Maker, who doesn’t want to revisit the wound and open it up again because each time I do it takes forever to heal up again.
    Rather than accept sympathy, I prefer to remind myself to be strong and of good courage.
    May God bless you as you bless me often with your writing:)

  • Bill DeForest

    So if you took out the (k)nots above, would they be affirmations or just more painful ways of saying the same things? Sorry Janet, I stubbed my toes on the knots and they hurt!

  • Melinda Schmidt

    Oh I so get those bullet points. Despise being the needy one. Especially when symptoms are not concrete. My pride strains for concrete explanations that I hope will somehow legitamize my need into something rather like “it’s just than ongoing problem with global warming kicking up again.” Somehow making it everywoman’s everyday problem, not my own. For me, I feel called to release my pride and accept humility and the invitation to experience how God’s Presence might meet my needs, perhaps through others…instead of isolating and doing it on my own. It’s so (grudgingly) humbling to open myself that to that.