A new year has started. It’s the time when a lot of people set their minds to the goals they want to accomplish for the next 12 months. Eat better, read more, be more present in the moment, work out, be a good friend. However, I’ve also heard others talk about having a theme for the year. For myself, though I do have some of the typical hopes in regards to eating, being active, reading etc., I have just gone through so many months of change that goal setting seems too much. The coming year is still a bit mysterious to me. So this idea of themes fits more with where I am at. I am not ready to declare one grand theme for 2015, however, I have some thoughts that have been moving around my heart in the past few weeks. In January, I hope to explore a few of the thoughts and words that I am taking with me into 2015.
I have a two and a half year old little girl, and like most toddlers, she often has to be told to “be gentle!” She loves play time and can sometimes be a bit too rough. To save her toys from being broken, her little brother from being hurt, or even sometimes Mommy and Daddy, I say, “be gentle!” slowly helping her learn this concept of being careful with people and objects alike and not causing harm.
Sometimes I end up saying, “Be gentle with yourself!” when in the midst of her exploring and playing it looks like she could hurt herself. Her curiosity drives her to find out what happens if she tries this or pokes that, pulls this or pushes that. So I also am finding the need to teach her to be careful to not harm herself, even while continuing to discover new experiences.
However, this new phrase, “Be gentle with yourself,” struck me in a new way the other day. I will be open and admit that I am not always kind to myself. The thoughts I have about myself are not always positive. Instead, what runs through my mind about me is often a mix of low self confidence and unmet expectation, beating myself up mentally and emotionally for a variety of flaws that I am likely over exaggerating. I often say things of myself in my mind that I would never think or say of others. I fear that the vast majority of you know exactly what I am talking about, especially women.
Recently it has happened a few times that when such a thought begins, this new phrase has come to mind. “Jessica, you are such a…” Wait. Deep breathe. Be gentle with yourself.
This by no means is saying I do not want to grow. I have many areas where I need to push myself to change, and even in some cases need a complete overhaul. This thought instead just addresses the way I am treating myself on this continual journey of life. It asks me to give myself the space and time required to grow. It means focusing on the progress, not the little failures. It means giving myself the same kindness and grace I would give another person as they are learning, maturing and becoming more like Christ. It also is a reminder to remember that my bad habits and hang-ups do not define who I am. I am one in whom Christ dwells, and in whom he delights. Like Paul in Philippians 3, I am still in process, pressing on to become more like Christ. That is the reality that needs to be worked out in every area of my life, becoming like Jesus as a wife, mother, worshiper, neighbour, friend.
So this is the first thought I’m exploring while beginning this new year. Be gentle with yourself. What do you think? Could this help change the way you view yourself?