Compassionate Self Critique

I’m playing with an idea here. I don’t know yet if it is a single topic or if it is a whole system. Something in me likes systems, but systems without walls or step by step expectations. Maybe you’ll have insight to offer.

I’m always thinking about growth: personal, professional, spiritual, emotional. All the growth. It thrills me. My entire orientation is toward growth. And I have a nagging question: How does growth happen?

I know that there is organic growth. A day by day unfolding, resigned to what is, and one day we realize we’ve changed, or developed or no longer hold the same beliefs as we once did. Most folks in that category won’t seek out spiritual direction or counseling. It is a Que sera sera way of being. What will be will be. It assumes that by vurtue of growing older, we’ll mature.

There are those who carry deep wounds of abandonment, oppression, neglect, identity crushing expectations, violence, and more. And these folks want to change. Now. Most often, these folks will go to therapy. Totally appropriate. Spiritual Direction works well with seekers of new patterns alongside counseling or at the point that the trauma has been named and released and now its about crafting a life from the rubble.

Honestly, I just want people to grow and become on their own terms.

What I know to be true for this type of deliberate maturing process, growth and healing, is compassion and self critique. We can read that different ways:

  • Compassion

  • Self Critique

  • Compassionate Self

  • Critique

  • Compassionate Critique

Compassion entails an inner and outer focus.

Inner: We must have compassionate for ourselves for believing lies that have lead to our diminshment, compassion for staying too long, compassion for doing the best we could with what we had, compassion for all that didn’t happen. And more!

Outer: We must have compassion for the perpetrator/s. In the Jesus tradition of the Gospels, Jesus guides us toward the hard work of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. This is no spiritual bypass, where we deny bad behavior, or forgive and forget. It is recognizing that harm, meanness, and even criminal behavior has been piled on us. This is hard work, and it is key. We cannot grow and become without this outer step of compassion.

Self Critique: This is the ability to take ourselves out of victimhood and ask hard questions of ourselves

  • What have I done to perpetuate this issue?

  • How can I do it different next time?

  • What is in my own story that causes me to repeat behavior that I truly no longer want to continue?

  • Oh, there it is again…what just happened to trigger this?

  • Why did I interpret their behavior this way? What else might it mean? What if it isn’t even about me?

  • and more

In my opinion and experience, this is when it gets juicy. Like a sociological, Anthropological adventure into our own psyche and soul through our history.

It can change everything.

How do we get here? Without step 1, step 2, step 3, how do we know what we’re doing?

And that is my question.

I know my own journey has been of hiding, secrets, extreme self doubt, self-negation, allowing others to diminish me with their words and assumptions. My greatest change came when I asked myself this question, “How did X know to do what they did to me?” My inner response was crystal clear: They wouldn’t have unless it was being done to them, or someone was brutally wounding them.


Compassion crept in and I could no longer see my story from a singular viewpoint. I believe without exception that bullies and abusers were themselves bullied and abused by people who were bullied and abused. Some are just mean and hurtful. Some are criminal. Some are criminally insane. Once I unlocked this truth, even though I didn’t have specifics, I could let them go. I forgave the person, while retaining the important knowledge that what they had done was wrong and I did not deserve it. It was a quantum leap in my healing. The next quantum leap in my healing was when I spoke the story out loud.

What was my journey to this point? A ton of things over the course of 33 years. Let me try to list them:

  • prayer

  • prayer

  • telling my husband

  • understanding the psychological condition of humans

  • spiritual direction

  • scripture research

  • listening to others

  • volunteer year in a domestic assault shelter

  • forgiving

  • forgiving again

  • forgiving myself

  • got tired of victimhood and self pity

  • awakening as to what was mine and what was theirs

  • shamanic journey

  • soul work

  • telling the story outloud to a group

  • compassionate understanding toward perpetrators

  • being real

  • non judgment of raw emotions

  • letting go of family myth and often told stories that were covers to make others feel good

  • truth telling with myself

  • open inquiry

  • Asking myself “What if that isn’t true? What might also be true at the same time?”

  • journaling

  • goodness so much more

Did I say this was a 33 year journey? Yep. And I have no embarrassment that it has taken into my mature adult years to be free of it. Free as in I am not defined by this past, and defining my own future once I took myself back and claimed authority of my story.

Compassion and Self Critique = Life.

That is what I know today. In the end…..


With love,