If you understand the purpose of your self judgments you will be kinder to yourself and others.
It was the second day into our Irish holiday when my opportunity came for self compassion.
Catia had just damaged the steel wheel rim of the camper-van and the tyre was a bit flat.
In a rush that evening, I went to put some more air in the tyre and fill up with diesel.
In my hurry, I was not aware that I was driving the 3.2 metre camper-van into a 2.9 metre filling station.
Remarkably, I squeezed under the roof without hitting it and asked to use the air hose.
I was told it was broken.
I immediately regretted not going the extra few hundred metres further down the road to the well-kept and well-organised garage.
Frustrated I drove forward and the roof lights of the camper-van caught on the filling station roof. I had wedged the camper-van and broken both roof-lights.
I was furious and the garage attendant’s only concern seemed to be the garage roof, which was already in a bad way. Eventually, help came in the form of someone suggesting that I let air out of the tyres so that the van dropped a few inches. The idea worked.
When I eventually made it to the other filling station, there was plenty of room, plenty of air and the attendant was extremely helpful. He let me borrow both a hammer to straighten out the damaged wheel rim and tape for the roof-lights
If I hadn’t been able to apply a few forgiveness steps, my self-criticism would have ruined the rest of the holiday. When I hired the camper-van, I was told its height and was warned about low bridges. How stupid could I be?
As I looked at the damage later that evening, I knew I had a choice. I could look at the damaged roof lights during the rest of the holiday and use it as an excuse to attack and criticise myself or I could use it to help me grow on my spiritual path.
I recognised that when I drove into the low, messy, broken garage it was a reflection of my inner choice of mind. I had chosen fear in my mind. I had asked for a mess. I had decided to feel low.
Now looking at the consequences of my mistaken inner choice, I wanted to use it as a learning opportunity to look at my mind’s mistaken choice, without judging myself or beating myself up. That was the only useful purpose of the broken roof-lights.
The purpose of self-criticism and negative reactions when things go “wrong” is to distract you from returning to your mind. It also reinforces the fear in your mind that you have associated with making a “wrong” choice so, even if you do get back to your mind, you will be too afraid to see what really happened.
Mistakes in this world can often seem serious and harmful, but mistakes in your mind are never serious and harmful in reality. Loving yourself is being able to look with understanding and compassion on your inner mistakes and smile at them. What’s the big deal about choosing fear? It’s silly. A mistake. A bit crazy. Insane or mad perhaps? But not sinful and certainly not deserving guilt and punishment.
The broken roof-lights were not the problem that needed to be solved. The purpose of making them the problem is so that I don’t return to my mind and smile at the fear of my inner mistaken choice. When I was able to see the broken roof-lights and smile, I knew I was smiling at my choice for fear in my mind.
So the next time you find yourself being critical, remind yourself something is happening inside. Your self-criticism is reinforcing your judgements about your inner mistaken choice. You don’t want to do that because it takes you further away from your true self and an experience of love and peace.
Years ago, I would have been harder on myself for the mistake and spent time worrying about the financial consequences. This time I was able with a Miracle Choice to be thankful for the opportunity to learn how not to be afraid of my choice for fear.
Call it (the choice for fear) not sin but madness, for such it was and so it still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it. T-18.I.6:7-9
(Addition in brackets mine)
This video “”What to do if your Choice is Fearful” expands on the blog post.