I’ve often been accused of being harsh with people who don’t meet my expectations and demands. Those accusations are almost always correct and my harshness is almost always more severe than the “infraction” deserves. The punishment I mete out is far greater than the crime warrants. I would like to think I’m more mellow now than when I ran my business or managed associations that employed me. And I’d like to think I continue to mellow. But, boy, did I overreact back in the day. As I reflect back on how I responded to disappointing performance of people who worked for or with me, I think how the objects of my wrath did not deserve such harsh treatment.
Though I’ve been hard on other people for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been hardest on myself. After expressing my expansive disappointment in others, my compassion for them generally took hold and I tried to put myself in their shoes and, to the extent I could, make up for my overblown reaction. But I have never been able to do that with myself. A newspaper article I read this morning, the words of a young Unitarian Universalist minister in Texas, got me thinking about my attitude toward my own mistakes. My immediate reaction to the article, entitled “Practice a little more self compassion,” was that I don’t deserve self compassion; others do, but I don’t.
That response took me by surprise. Why would I feel that way? I can’t answer that question; it’s just the way I’ve always felt. Yet as I read more of the article, the more it made sense. The author suggests that self compassion allows us to let go of burdens that otherwise might bind us to our mistakes. I suppose my attitude has been something like, “if I forgive myself, it’s like giving myself permission to make the same mistake again.” That’s absurd. By forgiving ourselves, we cut those binding cables. I hope I can learn to follow the article’s advice. I think it’s healthy.