Can things work backwards? Can something that is supposed to come from internally actually be found externally? Or can something that has worked outside the family unit be brought back home?
I’m currently doing a book study with my small group and this week’s theme has really challenged me. It’s about compassion and how we can only really show compassion to others if we are first compassionate with ourselves. I get it. Logically that makes sense; you can’t give what you don’t have. I mean you can’t give someone the shirt off your back if you don’t have a shirt.
But as I survey my own life that isn’t the way things have worked for me. In fact it’s been quite the opposite. I gave, by volunteering my time and energy, to organizations and people something I didn’t give myself: time and energy. And, if I’m really honest, giving that away is what saved me.
I get stuck inside my head a lot. At any given moment there about 32836478246 conversations happening inside my brain, all screaming for my attention. Most of them have something to do with fear, either the fear of what’s to come or the fear that I disappointed someone in the past. And they loop, one right after the next, barely giving my mind a chance to catch up and work through the first. So, during the season of all my time and energy being focused on others outside my home, my brain stayed occupied with craft ideas, snacks, meal trains, content, speeches, meeting topics, and logistics it did not have time to swirl down the drain of what ifs or should haves.
That season of outwardly focused energy saved me. It saved me from the dumpster fire that was my own mind. I can see that today. I can see that each day that moves me away from that particularly awful time of life I was given the gift of being of service to others. But here’s the rub, outwardly focusing my energy has meant way outside, like to complete strangers; it has never meant outside, like to the people inside my home, and I’m a little haunted by that. How is it that for several years I had the ability to be kind, compassionate, and caring to others, but many days it feels almost impossible to extend that same level of loving energy on the people inside the walls of my home?
How can this duality exist? How can I answer a book study question that yes I am compassionate and kind, and also feel I have to qualify it as pertaining only to people that are on the outskirts of my life?
What I am learning is that in my season of intense giving I needed the outside focus. I had zero idea how to be self-compassionate but through that season I learned I could be compassionate, and if I can do it out there I could try to do it in here.
For the past couple of years self-compassion is what I have focused on, really more on self-discovery, I suppose. On this journey I have had to look at parts of myself that have some rough edges, some imperfections, some flaws. And I’ve really had to dig deep and ask for help on sanding those edges, imperfections, and flaws down. To smooth the rough edges I’ve had to look at myself through a lens of self-compassion. And it is only now that I am able to be gentle enough with myself to start being mindful of taking a more gentle approach with those closest to me. But it took being compassionate and giving my time and talent out there, way out there, to see that I could use those same gifts in here.