Ever heard of Self-Compassion? I recently read the article “Self-Compassion as a Spiritual Practice” by James C. Wilhoit, published in Biola University’s Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care. The author argues that the lies a person tells themselves are actually from the devil. He writes, “The harsh words spoken to ourselves are not just our words, they are the messages of the Accuser, who unlike our Heavenly Father, actively hates and despises us.” To fight against those lies, Wilhoit suggests following Dallas Willard’s idealized goal of spiritual formation, helping people “learn to love what is lovely.” Williard points out that God is what is lovely, as are his Words, given in the Scriptures. I agree with these principles completely and I think that learning to love what is lovely might be a summation of the good that can be gathered from Wilhoit’s article. This kind of mental focus is an important goal of the church. Paul impresses it in Col 3:1-2, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” It is good for us to focus on and help people know God and his love for them revealed through Jesus.

Wilhoit’s article, although well-meaning in seeking compassion, takes the idea too far. The term ‘self-compassion’ takes the focus off of God and off of God’s truth. It shifts the focus to self. When believers are self-focused, even when trying to be compassionately self-focused about God’s love, it’s too easy for the self part to get in the way of the God part. Look at how Eugene Lowry (from, “The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art” pg 64) describes the difference. “I have known numerous persons who have been “looking for themselves” for a lifetime without success. And many there are whose sense of identity never involved any kind of conscious search for self at all. In reflecting on my own life, I observed that those times when I have seemed most in touch with myself when my self-identity has been most secure, have been those times when I was known by another—not by myself—and was accepted by that other. I then recalled someone’s having said that “those who give their lives in search of happiness will find many things, but never happiness.” Could it be that the issue of self-discovery is analogous? I believe s. My assumption now is that one’s search for self ultimately is fruitless because it seeks to find that which can only be given by another. In short, we may seek self-identity and hope to find ourselves, but the hoped-for result never occurs through our own efforts. We seek ourselves, but are finally found! One’s identity is the gift of another’s love.” Acceptance is a better term than self-compassion. Accept that what God says is true. Accept God’s love for me and you. Accept God’s mission on this planet too. Acceptance, trust, faith, and belief in God are better terms because they are more biblical and because they take the focus off self and keep the focus where it should be, on God.
John Riley 
Jr. High Pastor

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