We are all in a daily grind of struggle, but when you listen for the voices of demand, you can learn to be kind to yourself and others. You can find rest.
This person deserves a medal.
Sometimes I listen to a person sharing something of their lives, and I think they deserve a medal or some award for what they have been through.
We hand out awards for bravery, sports, business leadership, arts, and other achievements but not for those who have faced the grit and grind of life.
I hear, at a heart level, the failures, successes, regrets, moments of passion, and also moments of sheer exhaustion. Yet they still keep going.
It’s a humbling experience at times to go deep into the struggle of another’s life. There is an invite to say ‘well done.’
But they downplay your sense of amazement. Not so much out of modesty but more so out of an unawareness that what they do is quite amazing.
- ‘Raising three kids on my own – not that bigger deal.’
- ‘My wife has had severe depression for 25 years of our 30-year marriage – not that bigger deal.’
- ‘I’ve had psychotic thoughts for ten years now. Its a struggle but not too bad.’
- ‘I started going to counseling five years ago for PTSD stuff from sexual abuse as a child. It’s tough, but it’s not that bad.’
- ‘Other people have it worse off than me.’
I want to say to them, ‘You’re amazing.’
An awareness of not being alone
There is often a pull to self-isolate. To hide away with our struggles. Rugged individualism has an allure to it of ‘I can do this on my own.’
Yet at the full stop point, that place where you run out of resources there is a need to reach out and seek help.
‘I can’t do this on my own.’
Only in the movies does the self-made superhero exist.
Most of all, we need others who say that they are with us.
They may not be able to magically solve the problem or heal the hurt, but they can offer to wipe away the tears of exhaustion.
They are there to be there for that moment.
The gift of being kind
Can you be kind to yourself?
Can you, for a moment, look at the grit and grind of your life and rest yourself in a bath of kindness?
Perhaps there is a little voice inside you that is saying you’re not enough. That you don’t measure up. You’re a failure, and you need to try harder.
Maybe you have a list of measurements that you have to achieve to feel you’re doing ok.
It could be spiritual exercises of having a daily quiet time, reading the Bible, praying for a certain amount of minutes, attending these church events, giving a certain amount of money.
Can you be kind to yourself and drop these for a moment.
No one is going to jump on you and kick you off God’s team. If you have critical people like that in your life, then perhaps it’s time to find a healthier group of people to be friends with.
The kindness of rest
For six days, this creative team worked and built. It was truly unique what they created. Mountains and microbes. Stars and snails. A man and a mouse.
What a burst of energy it must have been. Furious love exploding out everywhere.
Then on the seventh day, they had a rest. Phew.
A deep rest of sitting with each other and soaking in the kindness of it all. They were kind to each other, themselves.
We still have that opportunity of entering kindness and rest.
Being kind to ourselves is an invite to rest with them (God) because we accept our clay bound human limitations.
To be kind to ourselves is to know that there is a much larger story going on, that we are part of it, and that God, with their creative artistic flair, will bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Can you rest yourself in that?
Speaking to the critic
Yet, there is still that little critic inside that whispers and shouts a list of expectations.
- Do this
- Do that
- Try harder
- You’re not good enough
- You don’t measure up
- You should be doing this
- Why can’t you be like them
There’s no carrot, only a stick that drives the donkey of your life.
Please, be kind and stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.
Start to notice the inner voice of the critic and see the influence it has over you. Where did that voice come from? Who was that slave driver?
It may be time for you to learn how to work out of your rest.
Yesterday I had a typically busy day outside, but I stopped for a moment.
I noticed that there was a particular wildness in the wind and so I ceased working for a few minutes and let the genesis energy of the wind flow around my face and through my lungs.
I was kind to myself and rested.
It was a ‘No’ to the ‘shoulds’ and an embracing of the ‘coulds.’
There were options. I could keep on working, working, working, or I could, for the next few moments, become mindfully aware of the presence of God in the wind around me.
I was kind to myself and I rested.
You may be working so hard in life that I can hardly rest with you. Please, be kind to yourself and take a rest.
Quotes to consider
- Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Socrates
- In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
- Our anguish plays out in our distorted images of our selves, our self-centered compulsions, our need to control, and our illusions about what makes us feel we are accepted or important. In all of this, grace is at the heart of deep change. Roger Heuser
- When you compare yourself with others, you have no idea what challenges they are facing. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
- Are you kind to yourself?
- Do you downplay your struggle to yourself?
- What would it be like to be fully at rest?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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