The Value of Self Acceptance and Self Compassion

We are now in the midst of a mindfulness revolution that is being embraced by large swathes of popular culture.  The aim of a new course I have developed - Prayer, Meditation and Mindfulness - is to help Christians engage with awareness practices that can enrich the whole of life – body, soul and spirit – while remaining faithful to the Christian Scriptures.  Part of the Introductory Session includes a meditation called “A Prayer of Accepted Tenderness”.  The prayer is very close to my own heart as it describes one of the core issues that we all have to face up to – acceptance.

Acceptance is one of the key areas in relation to the practice of mindfulness.  For Christians the concept of acceptance and self-acceptance goes much further and deeper than simple resignation.  The acceptance we can enjoy in this present moment is intrinsically linked to the grace and mercy of God towards us personally.  But this reality must go beyond the logical and cerebral approach.  For the Christian the search for spiritual freedom involves the re-alignment of the whole self with the grace and mercy of God.  Prayer, Meditation and Mindfulness offer us tools and disciplines that can position us to enjoy the riches of God’s grace which are lavished on us in and through Christ.

I wrote “A Prayer of Accepted Tenderness” during a particularly difficult time in my own life as a young Christian – a time of stress and inner turmoil.  There are hundreds, even thousands of reasons that we could come up with to justify non-acceptance of self.  Here are a few common ones  – I’m too fat, I’m not good enough, I’m too geeky, I’m too ugly, I don’t fit in, I’m nothing special, I’m not very clever....and the list could go on and on.  We set an imaginary standard of perfection that we know we cannot attain to and as a result we justify non-acceptance and rejection of self.  As a teenager this was the headspace I lived in.  And it didn’t make me happy.

What a relief it is to know that I can do nothing whatsoever to make God love me and accept me more than he already does in this present moment.  I don’t deserve it.  I can’t earn it.  I can’t buy it.  I can’t manipulate God to get it.  My acceptance is rooted in the nature and character of God.  It’s not a characteristic that he has hidden and kept veiled from us.  The love of God is most powerfully revealed in the cross of Jesus – “Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:23-25).

Christian mindfulness relates to the cross of Jesus but it goes much further than a historical event.  It also goes beyond a logical and reasoned theology of the atonement.  The same God who reveals himself as Christ crucified also lives with us right here and right now.  “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  The power and reality of the cross and resurrection can come into our awareness as God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  In the place of silence and meditation we can journey deeper into the heart of God towards us and enjoy his grace, mercy and acceptance at the very core of who we are.

 

© Richard H H Johnston

 

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