“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.” M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled.
Transcend: a: to rise above or go beyond the limits of b: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of: overcome. Definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
The challenge of our Black Sheepness is that it’s not one-and-done. We may slip into destructive behaviors again and again and again. There are days where we are harassed and helpless, especially days where we can’t see our good. Maybe that’s when it’s time for compassion—self-compassion. We have slipped into behaviors that we don’t like. Behaviors that don’t define us. Then the critical voices shout, “you’re no good! See?” “What a loser!” “I knew you’d relapse!”
I quit drinking after my husband’s death. It was very difficult. I wanted to isolate, which is always a red flag. I hated going out and seeing couples. I hated seeing couples that were traveling in their retirement years. Family reunions with couples and more couples flashing photos of their wonderful life. Couples in RVs. Couples camping, dancing, dinner out, not to mention holidays with the carols, food, twinkling lights and celebration.
Widowhood is a dark and lonely place for so many reasons and numbing it with whiskey was so tempting. I hated myself when grocery shopping and that awful store music would have me crying like a newborn. Someone cuts me off in traffic and I take it personally by fretting, shaking, yes, and crying.
I quit drinking. Started new behaviors. I exercised, met with like-minded sober people, went to lunch with fellow widows. Oh yes, church too. Then a blizzard came. It roared around my house. The power went out. It was out for 11 hours. When the roads were clear, I drove into town with my faithful dog, bought whiskey and dog treats, came home, under the covers in my bedroom with dog and drank. Lots. The next day I was hungover and full of shame. So, bought more whiskey and drank some more. Lots. What did I learn from this? How about some self-compassion? I made a mistake. I was still grieving. Still recovering from trauma of my husband’s disease. I was “harassed and helpless without a shepherd.” But self-recrimination never accomplishes anything good or worthwhile. I made a mistake. What a whopper of a mistake, for sure! What was at the bottom of all of this? SHAME. Shame for still grieving. Shame I couldn’t do it all. Shame that I was envious of couples who still had a lovely life. Shame that I was so frightened during a blizzard and no power. Shame that I was helpless. Shame I was alive.
If I were self-compassionate, I would have understood the source of my shame. No, not widowhood. Not even relapsing. Not even guilt. It was shame that was imprinted in me from a very young age and continued throughout my life. Shame that screams at Black Sheep that you are wrong, you’re no good, worthless. Shame that proves all of this. Even in grief, shame is entangled.
I took this to my Father. He showed compassion toward me, which allowed me to have compassion for myself.
If you’ve had a major setback, take it to your Father. Ask him to show you compassion. Let him pour his grace on you. This opens the heart to forgive yourself and to start over. Starting over is Big. We do it over and over in life. It’s how many times you get back up that builds character. Life is difficult.
Search through the Bible stories of some of the greats that had whopper mistakes. God worked through them. He will through you too. Life was difficult for them too.
Thank you, Father, for this relapse. This mistake. This setback. Lapse in judgment. Thank you for your compassion and grace that makes me whole and ready to start again. Show me how this mistake, no matter how large, can be used by you. Your Word says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. In partnership, let’s use this for good.