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Self-Compassion or Self-Punishment?


By Karen Rabbitt

Do you typically treat yourself with compassion or punishment? What kinds of sentences flit though your mind when you nearly cause a car accident? “Wow, keep your eyes open, stupid.” or “Oops, I could have hit that car. Thank you Jesus, I didn’t.

If we want to change from self-punishment to compassion, what’s the first step? When I changed my attitude toward myself, I first recognized those words that populated the back of my mind. “Dummy.” “Inadequate.” “Bad Mommie.”

Then, we need to sort out truth. Sometimes we need feedback from others, sometimes we can determine truth ourselves. Realistically, I knew I wasn’t a dummy. When I evaluated carefully, I saw I was inadequate in some ways, but not in others. And I knew I wasn’t a very good Mommie.

Then, having clarified true words from false, we can decide how to treat ourselves. I was a bad Mommie, in lots of ways. I screamed, I was selfish. Many times, I didn’t give my girl what she needed. I can ask her forgiveness, at the time and later. Then, I can forgive myself.

To entertain a forgiving attitude towards oneself doesn’t mean we condone what we did. It doesn’t excuse. Forgiveness means we cancel the debt against ourselves because God has canceled the debt against us.

Releasing that debt is the only way forward.

If I continue to entertain the “Bad Mommie” gremlin that lurks in my mind, it’ll feed self-disgust. That is also sin. I do not disgust God. He has absorbed all my sin and self-disgust into his own body on the cross.

We can adopt his attitude toward ourselves. By the Holy Spirit, John says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10.

When we work toward a self-forgiving attitude, we are receiving God’s love.

Sweet Papa, we are so grateful for your work in our hearts. Please continue to give us grace to forgive, especially ourselves, so we can keep moving towards your magnificent love.

Copyright 2009 Karen Rabbitt

Read my story, which includes questions for personal reflection, in Trading Fathers: Forgiving Dad, Embracing God. Go to www.karenrabbitt.com


Karen Rabbitt, M.S.W., a seasoned psychotherapist, has written for Marriage Partnership and Today’s Christian Woman, in addition to writing her own story, Trading Fathers: Forgiving Dad, Embracing God (WinePress, 2009). She speaks on emotionally healthy Christianity with a special emphasis on the forgiveness process. A grandmother, she has been married to Jerry since 1972, lives in Illinois, and attends a Vineyard church. www.karenrabbitt.com