What does it look like to make spaces where all are accepted and loved in a way that demonstrates and reflects God’s own love for us? Isn’t that what we all crave ultimately—to be seen, known, and accepted for who we are?” In her book, A-Z Of Wellbeing: Finding your Personal Toolkit for Peace and Wholeness, author Ruth Rice emphasizes sharing wellbeing habits within community. The gold here is that Rice doesn’t just write about wellbeing but helps the reader engage in practices which help us enter into wellbeing.
She unpacks an alphabet of life-giving ways to enter into wellbeing. Each letter has a chapter and each chapter includes a connection to the Bible, a habit to learn from, a suggestion for how this habit might look in community, a story of personal experience, a prayer or poem, and some questions for reflection. Below we share an excerpt from Chapter ‘C is for Compassion.’ (Excerpt is from p.37-p.39).
If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, it is discussed in Session 7 of The Sanctuary Course, as well as in this post on The Sanctuary Blog from Alastair Sterne.
Adaptation from Chapter ‘C is for Compassion’ of A-Z Of Wellbeing: Finding your Personal Toolkit for Peace and Wholeness by Ruth Rice
As a practice, compassion is easier to show to others than to yourself. I find it far easier to come alongside someone else’s pain than to acknowledge and view my own struggles with compassion and love. I tend to view my own struggles as a fault I need to fix, or a problem that is mine to deal with. Self-compassion is, I think, a better way for me to understand my relationship to my own wellbeing than talk of self-worth. To be compassionate towards ourselves is still a novel idea to me. After years of self-criticism, it is taking some practice to try to view myself as I would another, or even as God might view me.
There are days when I don’t feel worth much, when I know I am making bad choices, thinking stuff that is unhelpful and unkind. The beauty of the Christian path is that it is not yet another self-help journey. We can admit our faults and still have self-compassion. I find it such a relief to acknowledge negatives now that I am learning to view myself with compassion.
One of the practices my dear friend and spiritual companion taught me is to weekly draw a circle in my journal, split it in four and write in each quadrant a feeling or emotion that I know is in me at that moment. My tendency before doing this once-a-week emotional health check was to ignore or deny any negative feelings and try to concentrate on the positives. But in so doing, I judged myself for any negative emotion, and did not come alongside myself in my own struggles as I would another human. I am learning to acknowledge what is honestly going on in me and have a little bit of compassion for myself as I am, after all, human!
Self-compassion in both the English meaning, which involves ‘suffering with,’ and the Hebrew sense of deep womb-like connectedness have been very helpful images for me as I have learned to walk better in my own skin.
I can now spot when I begin to get mad with myself and pause and just take a look at what I feel, as if from a distance. I can’t say I do this all the time, but I have found journaling helpful. I try to stop if I am getting angry or upset or generally feeling down, and draw a quick circle. The first thing I notice is that there are often other emotions in there too. We are rarely full of just one thing. Joy and sorrow can co-exist. This makes the negative feeling less overwhelming. Then I can name the feeling and ask myself what it’s all about and just sit with it. Let it be what it is. I wouldn’t try to fix other people needing to express negative feelings, so I am beginning to treat myself with the same kindness and at least talk about what’s going on with God, my journal and, if brave enough, with a friend.
When I can receive his compassion, and be a bit more compassionate to myself, then I begin to be more compassionate towards others. I think before realizing I needed to receive compassion and practise self-compassion, my acts of compassion towards others carried a bit of desperation to be needed or to fix. Even praying with someone could lead to dependency on me if I approach that person with a need to help them, rather than compassion. In community we can learn a lot from how Jesus helped people.
In our Renew spaces, we start each day with prayer, asking him to crown us with compassion (Psalm 103:4), and then we take that compassion with us into the café space and the day.
About the book:
“If ever there was a time to prioritise wellbeing, it’s now.”
– Ruth Rice
Twenty-six short chapters to help you deepen your own wellbeing practices and to develop shared community language to improve wellbeing.
Copyright © 2022 by Ruth Rice
Published by Authentic Media. Bletchley, Milton Keynes.
Available for purchase online and in-store at St. Andrew’s Book Shop.
Ruth Rice is director of Renew Wellbeing, a charity which runs simple cafe-style spaces attached to a quiet room where inner habits of wellbeing are shared. You can find out more about Renew Wellbeing and buy Ruth’s books here: https://www.renewwellbeing.org.uk
Introduction to this blog post written by Naomi Luff. Naomi works part-time for Sanctuary UK. Her background is youth work and she has an MA in Practical Theology, exploring the use of contemplative practices in urban youth work settings. She lives in central London and is happiest basking in the sun, book in hand.
Cover Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash