Practicing Compassion When the Critic Won't Quit

Day 1 of 3 • This day’s reading


Kindness for the Wounds 

When I was sixteen, I wanted with every fiber of my being to believe that God was tender toward me. I knew many verses in the Bible that discussed God’s love and compassion, and I often quoted them or wrote them out. Later on, I learned that the most common word in the Old Testament used to describe God’s compassionate and good posture toward us is the Hebrew word chesed. This word is roughly translated to mean loving-kindness. Some translators taken it to mean “love that acts.” According to Strong’s Lexicon, chesed appears no less than 248 times! One of the big takeaways is that God’s loving-kindness toward us is not a fleeting aspect of His character, but a mainstay of who He is.

Yet even with an abundant amount of written evidence that God’s posture was gentle, I struggled to believe this goodness was also for me. The cavern between what I knew about God’s character and what I experienced was wide and daunting. Among the many reasons this was true: I had developed an intense and biting inner critic over the years. By the time I reached my twenties, my critic was as sharp as a razor blade. The incessant narrative of self-hate often kept me circling my brain for hours trying to figure how I could be better. This critic kept me tense, anxious, and often afraid. How could I matter? How could I make sure I lived more perfectly so that it wouldn’t set off all the nasty ways of thinking?

Without fully realizing it, I also ascribed this brutal part of myself to the way God saw me. Cognitively I knew about God’s love, but experientially it was far from reach. So no matter how often I heard about God’s kindness, I just couldn’t seem to get past the walls I had unknowingly constructed. The more I longed to believe that God viewed me as entirely lovable, the more angry I became that I couldn’t seem to accept it. 

Later I began to learn that though my inner critic could be brutal, this part of myself was largely driven by the wounds I’d experienced in a highly dysfunctional family. My inner critic had simply internalized a narrative that reflected the painful experiences I’d had. A turning point came when, through therapy and my own journey as a licensed therapist, I began to realize I could receive the compassion God has always offered, as well as give that compassion to myself. God wasn’t angry that I had experienced pain—He was grieving with me; He was loving me, even before I could love myself. 

How about you? Do you ever find yourself disconnected from the goodness available to you in Jesus? Many of us don’t realize that just as God is profoundly kind and compassionate to us, we are invited to steward that compassion toward ourselves, too, in the form of self-compassion. How do we do this? We begin to practice gentleness and attentiveness toward our wounds in the same way that God is already kind to us.