. . . we attribute authority to [our weaknesses] to name who we are, and they don’t because only love has the authority to name who we are. –James Finley, Turning to the Mystics Thomas Merton 4
My weaknesses don’t have the authority to define me. My false self/ego doesn’t have the final say in who I am. Only Love does.
For so long, I lived under a black cloud of shame. My weaknesses defined me as selfish, insensitive, fat, unattractive, and never good enough. Believing that was true, evoked harsh, loud feelings to disable me. All I wanted to do was shut them out and feel better, even if what I did to feel better was momentary and destructive.
I couldn’t see it then. I thought I had to be different to be worthy of love, and I couldn’t change myself, no matter how hard I tried. I knew there was goodness in me, but as soon as I bumped into my “badness,” it canceled any goodness I had. I believed that if I had any weaknesses that’s all people could see.
But that isn’t true.
It’s not true.
It’s not true at all.
For so long I wanted to believe it wasn’t true. I thought it and could say it, but the fear that it was true was so big and so strong that anytime something went wrong, my fear got reinforced.
That fear is not so big anymore. I feel it sometimes. It’s a part of me I can sit with. When it comes out of the shadows, I keep it company and offer myself compassion. Fear comes and fear goes like waves on the surface while an ocean of Love holds the truth.
Finley says, “You can’t get the ocean into a thimble, but you can drop the thimble into the ocean.” For years, my capacity to believe that I am worthy of love and good enough was the size of a thimble, and yet I couldn’t fill it. Now that capacity fills my whole body, and my fear barely fills a thimble.
I’m so grateful to be here, so grateful for the ways God has opened my eyes. God never got tired of finding me stranded on an emotional rooftop and offering me another cup of compassion. No matter how many times I turned away, Love turned toward me.
If you’re reading this and thinking, Well, that’s great for you, but that hasn’t happened to me. I hear you. You’ve come to believe–and your experiences substantiate your claims–that Love is only for other people, as if somehow God has overlooked you, or has given up on you–your fault, of course. Your frustrated ego has named you unworthy and unlovable.
I thought that too.
But it isn’t true.
It’s not true.
It’s not true at all.
Your ego doesn’t have the final say in who you are.
Even if you continue to believe the lie your fear is telling you, Love doesn’t.
Love is right beside you. Love is all around you. You are swimming in an ocean of Love. One day your eyes will be opened, and you will see it.
I was blind too, but now I see.
Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,
In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.
But you refused. You couldn’t sit still;
instead, you said, “No! We will ride out of here on horseback.
Fast horses will give us an edge in battle.”
But those who pursue you will be faster still.
When one person threatens, a thousand will panic and flee.
When five terrorize you, all will run pell-mell,
Until you are as conspicuous as a single flag standing high on a hill.
Meanwhile, the Eternal One yearns to give you grace and boundless compassion;
that’s why Love waits.
For the Eternal is a God of justice.
Those inclined toward God, waiting for God’s help, will find happiness.
–Isaiah 30:15-18 (The Voice, adapted)
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When I look back on the past year and what talks significantly shaped me, The Radical Compassion Challenge was among them. I am so pleased Sounds True and Tara Brach are offering it again April 26-May 5, 2021–and it’s free. Each day of the Radical Compassion Challenge brings you short talks and guided meditations on core topics such as self-compassion, self-forgiveness, seeing goodness, and deepening lovingkindness; a daily compassion-in-action challenge; and an interview with Maria Shriver, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Elizabeth Gilbert, Van Jones, Sandra Oh, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, Valarie Kaur, Dr. Dacher Keltner, Dr. Kristin Neff, or Krista Tippett.