Self-Compassion and Forgiveness: An Offering of Loving Kindness

Buddha Holding Flower

Liisa Gavlick, MA, LMFTA
Article © 6/2015 All Rights Reserved

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” This is a quote has been credited to the Buddha but upon further research I discovered it is attributed to Sharon Salzberg. I would also add at the end, compassion and forgiveness so that it read, “You, yourself as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love, your affection, your compassion and forgiveness.”

Often when working with clients self-compassion and self-forgiveness come up. Many feel critical towards their mental health challenge, judgmental of the things they can no longer do, or have done because of their diagnosis, the stress they have put their family through, the ways they have hurt themselves or others, and believe they are unforgivable.

When I ask them if they would offer compassion toward a friend or other family member if they had the same diagnosis, similar experiences, or did the same things, they often answer yes. However, for many, they hold a double standard stating they cannot forgive themselves.

I was not immune to it either. For example, I attended Bastyr University, in Washington State to complete my undergraduate degree. The buildings the campus uses were originally built in 1958 and were once part of a larger Catholic seminary. The campus has a European-style chapel. Although the chapel was no longer used for religious purposes, there was still a presence of reverence, of holiness, and awe when you crossed the entryway.

This particular quarter, we often had class in the chapel and our professor would lead us in a meditation at the beginning of class. One day we did a Loving Kindness (Metta) meditation. I don’t remember the exact verses we used, but here are the verses I use these days:
May I be happy.
May I be free from danger.
May I be free from suffering.
May I be at peace.

That day in the chapel as I quietly repeated similar words to myself for the first time, the emotions welled up from deep within. I was profoundly affected. At the end of class, attempting to hold tears at bay, I quickly gathered my things and practically sprinted to the doors. Once I crossed the threshold the tears began to flow.

Thinking back on that time, it may have been the first time I truly held myself with kindness and compassion. It was powerful. It was moving. And, it led me in a new direction in my own personal journey of wholeness and healing. That particular meditation taught me it was time to begin work with my shadow, my internalized critic; time to recognize and alter my harmful, hurtful, critical thoughts and regularly hold myself with compassion.

When I lead others in the Loving Kindness meditation I often see more than a few eyes well up with tears. For some it too may have been the first time they offered themselves compassion. You are not immune to the need for kindness, for compassion, for support as you continue on your journey towards wholeness.

You, yourself as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love, your affection, your compassion and your forgiveness.

In order to create lasting change in the world, we must first begin within ourselves. If we continue to judge, to criticize, or treat ourselves harshly, how can we offer our compassion and loving kindness to others if our own cup is empty?

Is it time for you to begin? If not now, when?

I invite those who are reading this to click on the links below to gather more information on your own journey towards wholeness. If you are interested in learning more about the internalized harsh, judgmental inner critic, these may prove beneficial to you.
<>Loving Kindness meditation:
http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/compassion_meditation#data-tab-how

<>An exercise to help quiet the inner critic: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/just_one_thing_hush_the_inner_critic

<>Another article on self forgiveness: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_healthy_way_to_forgive_yourself

** Disclaimer: If you experience strong emotions and feelings reading the articles or while performing the meditation it is in your best interest to seek help from a mental health professional. The information contained on this Social Media page, videos, and audios includes ideas, suggestions, and other listed materials that are for educational and informational purposes only. The validity, effectiveness, or usefulness of all information regarding the outcome for individuals, couples, families, businesses, corporations, or groups utilizing the information provided including links to other websites, videos, and audios cannot be predicted nor is it guaranteed.

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