Holding your self in compassion is the third topic in the Mojo diary. This is an act of loving yourself more.
How then are we to show ourselves love if we do not know love in the first place? Our challenge is not to understand and know why we are not loved but to learn to accept and understand that we are loved and can love despite what we might feel or have experienced in the past. The challenge is to let the understanding that we are loved sink down into our hearts, into the pit of our stomachs and the depth of our souls. You are loved. You are magnificent because you were created divinely and given the spark of life. You are precious and cherished because you are set apart to be enjoyed and to live with purpose. Let me tell you what I think of loving kindness, grace and acceptance because I heard your thoughts the other day. That is where I will start. It is true that if you have not been modelled love, acceptance, encouragement, interest etc. then in that area you will find it hard to be that to yourself and others. You might have experienced great encouragement when your mother saw and applauded your efforts as a child but she might not have shown you acceptance when your behaviour was ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’. Maybe you felt misunderstood because she saw your behaviour in terms of her own need for approval and so the underlying message could have been ‘I don’t approve of you doing X so I can’t accept you’. You might have felt rejected or shamed and the message was ‘I can’t accept you for who you are’. There are many things that disappoint a mother: the health of a child, intelligence, the way they behave, demanding attention, expressing neediness, their incessant questions, and even their novel ideas.
I’m sure you can make a list of the things you did that in retrospect you feel made you unacceptable if you feel it would help you but what is more important is to begin to see how acceptable you are, how unique and important you are in this world. Start to look into the mirror of acceptance and receive what you need. For example begin to notice when people compliment you or encourage you. Do you accept it or reject it by making light of it in some way?
The thing is that a mother normally does love her child but her own needs often overshadow the child’s need or they complicate things with their own desires. So the message often is ‘I accept you BUT….’ Only when the parent can say ‘I accept you as you are despite your faults, despite your needs, despite not being the same as me’ and despite their own disappointment they model acceptance. That is love.
Often there are reasons for the short fall of acceptance: the parent’s anxiety or self-esteem gets in the way. In my mother’s case it was that she suffered the loss of my father. Her grief consumed her, as to be expected, and that created neglectful behaviour towards me. I felt insufficient because the message was ‘I want you to fill me up but you are not supplying me what I need so you are insufficient.’
Our challenge is to leave the shame, rejection, disappointment and the bad messages behind. Let them go. Forgive. In letting them go you create space for love to grow. Invite love in to be a part of your life. Grow towards the love we need, grow into it and share the love with others around us. We can’t continue blaming others as insufficient or faulty – we already know we are all faulty yet we can receive the capacity to love. We can model kindness, grace and mercy to others; as we do this we learn to do it for ourselves too. In learning to accept each other’s humanness we learn to accept our own and as we accept our own we learn to have more empathy and love for others. Instead of it being the vicious circle spiralling downwards it becomes the loving circle spiralling upwards. When we model love to each other we encourage love to grow. I believe that love comes from God – the kindness, mercy and grace on the one hand and boundaries, respect and discipline on the other hand making up the totality of love. It is our job to open ourselves up to learning about love and experiencing it. Accept one another the way you would want to be accepted.
Let’s step into love.