Self Compassion vs Biblical Truth

A couple years ago, I received my regular email from a certain representative of my national body of social work (I am no longer in this field). This email usually contained new research findings on specific therapies/interventions,  and promoted training programs and seminars. One time, the email was was about self-compassion. This stood out to me because I saw a counsellor a few months before who recommended this practice to me. I was not able to successfully implement this practice because of it was missing a crucial aspect of reality. Self-compassion, though flowery and serene sounding, contains a sinister omission of the Lord our God and replaces it with new age thought:

The new age doctrine of Self-Compassion tells people to

  1. Be kind to themselves as they would be kind to others (Luke 6:31, but reversed, with focus on self)
  2. Recognize that human suffering is universally felt, so to be lead to realize that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us, that we are not fundamentally damaged in any way (which goes against Romans 3:10& Ecclesiastes 7:20) This then is to…
  3. Lessen the experience of painful feelings and thoughts, and prevent ‘over-identifying with them’ and avoiding labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and fulfilling the ultimate goal of…
  4. Reduction of suffering, and accepting ourselves as we are.

The Bible is the measure of truth as it is the “inerrant word of God which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So I will use a simple comparison between what the bible teaches, and what self-compassion teaches

 The biblical reason behind suffering.

 “There was a time on this earth when suffering and sorrow did not exist. When God first created man upon the earth, everything was perfect. There was no sickness, no pain, no sorrow of any kind. It was God’s plan for man to live in peace and harmony never having to experience sorrow. According to Genesis chapter three, it wasn’t until man chose the way of Satan, rather than the way of God, that sorrow entered the world. Man sins against God in Genesis 3:6-7, and God reveals to Adam and Eve the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:16-19. God told Adam and Eve that they would now experience SORROW and DEATH. Therefore, the suffering and sorrow that you and I face today is not the work of an unjust God; it’s the consequences of sin. We suffer because we are sinners. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Melton, 1994, para. 3)

Self-Compassion’s reason behind suffering:

“Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us”

“All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.”

“Thich Nhat Hahn calls the intricate web of reciprocal cause and effect in which we are all imbedded “interbeing.”

So to summarize, the Bible teaches us our suffering was not God’s intended plan for us, rather it is due to the consequences of the rebellion of Adam and Eve which leads to our inherited sin nature. Self Compassion doctrine teaches that suffering is merely part of the human experience without explaining how it came about.

Certain questions are begged from the contrasting statements above:
are we really slaves to sin? do we really have control over over the root of our suffering?

The Bible teaches that everyone in a spiritual sense is a slave to something, either to sin or to Christ. Jesus Christ himself said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). Gotquestions.org explains this nicely: “Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it (n.d.).

Self-Compassion agrees with this to an extent and asserts that “any aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors (genetic and/or environmental) that we have little control over”

So they recommend that the alleviation of suffering comes from the regurgitation of (false) mantras to ourselves (that are based off our Buddhism and new age philosophy). And could it go as far as suggesting that these self-statements have the power to change things from what they actually are!  Though surely one can put themselves into an altered state of consciousness and brainwash themselves into thinking whatever they fancy, but that is a dangerous departure from reality. This reminds me of the ‘word of faith movement‘ that promotes the ‘the power of positive confession’ that deifies man by making claims that man can speak life and death into situations and circumstances.

References

What does it mean to be a slave to sin?. (n.d.). GotQuestions.org. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.gotquestions.org/slave-to-sin.html

Melton, J. (1994, January 1). Why does God allow people to suffer?. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/suffer.html
Neff, Kristin . “Self-Compassion.” The three elements of self-compassion. N.p., 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 18 July 2014. <http://www.self-compassion.org/what-is-self-compassion/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion.html&gt;.
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