What's Tony Thinking

You’re Too Hard on Yourself, Part 2


Not long ago I wrote a piece here titled “You’re Too Hard on Yourself.” This post continues that theme, drawing on a recent meditation of Fr. Richard Rohr. Shout out to colleague, Katy Lloyd, for bringing it to our attention.

Before I get into Rohr’s meditation, however, I feel I should acknowledge that my last post took what is arguably the entirely opposite tact.

You might say that it reminded us to be hard on ourselves.

With the Cohen hearings on my mind, I quoted from the prophet Jeremiah on our human capacity for self-deception. And with an eye toward Lent’s beginning in a couple days (this coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday) I noted the need for honest self-examination.

I don’t know that honest self-examination and this post’s encouragement not to be too hard on yourself are really contradictory. I don’t think they are. But there is certainly a tension between the two. Hopefully, a creative tension.

Okay, so Rohr notes our tendency to negative self-talk and offers an exercise for transforming such negation to affirmation. Here’s Rohr:

“We have been conditioned to focus on the negative in ourselves and others.

“Think of a negative phrase you have said aloud or thought to yourself that stems from a sense of shame rather than your inherent dignity.

“Turn it upside down and say, in first person, present tense, an affirmation of your God-given value. For example:

“I am alone. . . . I am indwelled by God’s presence.

“I am unlovable. . . . I am infinitely loved.

“I don’t have enough. . . . I have everything I need.

“I am stupid. . . . I have the mind of Christ.

“I am worthless. . . . I am precious in God’s eyes, I am honored, and God loves me.

“Repeat the positive statement aloud, slowly, with intention and trust, several times. Then rest silently in the awareness that you are already and forever, without any effort or achievement on your part, a beloved child of God.”

So which is it? Be hard on yourself? Or don’t be too hard on yourself?

I am reminded of the story of the person on retreat at a Trappist monastery, where the brothers baked a fine dark bread.

Enjoying the bread at dinner, the guest asked one of the brothers, “Did we make this bread ourselves or was it given to us?”

To which the brother answered, “Yes.”

Which is it? Be hard on yourself, or don’t be so hard on yourself?




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