“For the whole law can be summed up in this sentence: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14

Friday, 2 October 2020

Galatians 5:14

To be compassionate is to show kindness, to be caring, understanding and willing to help. This is a word for a very positive emotion that has to do with being thoughtful and charitable. We have all had experiences of giving or receiving compassion to and from another.

We are programmed to think that compassion is about a way of relating to others. If you ask about compassion, we almost immediately begin to think of the ‘how’ of being compassionate to others. It can and should be a disposition through which we act towards another.

But there is also a time in which we need to be aware of and cultivate self-compassion. The Scriptures tell us that that we must love others as we love ourselves. This implies that if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love others.

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, anxiety or general suffering. We can so often put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

We may be kind, caring and understanding with others but we can be brutal with ourselves for not doing or achieving what we think we should have or be. Ever had the experience of mercilessly judging and criticising yourself for various inadequacies, shortcomings or failings?

We live with the idea that we are supposed to be perfect, an idea that is an obstacle to many of us becoming who we really are because we are always trying to be what we think we should be and not who we are. This leads to us feeling very churned up, angry or upset with ourselves. We must be careful that we don’t confuse self-compassion with self-pity or self-indulgence. Those are not healthy either.

In times of fear, stress and anxiety, we need to show ourselves the same compassion we would give to others. We are probably better at being compassionate to others when we are compassionate with ourselves!

Today, call to mind one personal inadequacy or failure. Can you allow yourself to let go of judging or criticising yourself? Be compassionate and see yourself through the eyes of compassion.

Compassionate God,

Help me to see myself through your eyes of kindness and compassion. Grace me with the wisdom to be self-compassionate so that I can be deeply compassionate to others.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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