We all were surprised recently when two celebrities took their lives within a few days of each other: Kate Spade, one of the world’s best-dressed women, and Anthony Bourdain, who ate delicious food for a living. How do we make sense of such tragedies?
Generally speaking, one way to imagine self-harming tendencies is to think of them as hard-working firefighters, trying to put out the flames of painful emotions. For example, it may be that, if you feel pain, your next move is to flip on your favorite TV show in hopes that it will distract you and make you feel better. And that’s okay. We all need positive coping skills and self-care activities now and then. The problem is when harmless distractions become habitual and self-defeating. For instance, when the occasional drink turns into a nightly necessity, or even a tormenting addiction.
The key to keeping extreme thoughts and feelings in check is not to try to get rid of them, but to extend grace, and guide them from the loving place in you where the Holy Spirit dwells. Being gentle with yourself brings you peace. Attuning empathetically to your extreme thoughts and feelings changes your trajectory and moves you in a positive direction. Then your emotional and spiritual needs will begin to be met, your pain will subside, and you’ll find yourself thanking God for each new day.
So the next time you’re feeling down, try the counter-intuitive move of being gentle with yourself. Embrace yourself for all of who you are. All parts of you are welcome at God’s table. There, in his loving presence, you can take in His love and learn to live freely and lightly.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . .
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28 – 30)