Being Merciful to Yourself (especially for caregivers)

Being Merciful to Yourself
An excerpt from Guide Them Safely Home, Lord: A Caregiver’s Companion

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

– James 2:13

* * *

I recently read an article by Marian Friedrichs in which she shared the following experience:

One Saturday, when I confessed yet again to judging other people harshly, the priest told me, “I want you to work on loving and accepting yourself. If you can’t have compassion for yourself, you can’t have compassion for anyone else.” He was right. If I constantly criticize myself, it’s tempting to look smugly at other people to make myself feel better. On the other hand, if I accept myself as I am, I don’t need to try to feel superior to others, so I can see them with loving eyes. Self-acceptance also helps me avoid the habit of critical thinking that inevitably clouds the way I see everyone, not just myself.

“Show Mercy to Yourself,”

Some of us are, by nature, hard on ourselves. We may be perfectionists. We find it hard to accept the fact that we will make mistakes or fail to accomplish every single goal we set out to achieve. Others are mistake-prone and find themselves feeling a constant sense of guilt and shame that they aren’t more quick-thinking, coordinated, or capable. And of course, at time we have all willfully lived with selfishness and disregard for God and other people.

There is not one of us who has lived perfectly. We humans are limited, imperfect, and subject to all kinds of influences and powers stronger that we are. Each of us sins. We all miss the mark. Every person must look in the mirror and figure out how to deal with failure, disappointment, and regret. The Book of Common Prayer encourages us to ask forgiveness, recognizing that “we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done….”

A person who faces the challenging job of caregiving each day will have an abundance of opportunities to fall short. There is no perfect caregiving. It is messy, perplexing work that can be maddening at times. You will get tired, angry, sad, or forgetful. You won’t always to things on time, in the right order, or with perfect skill. You may disappoint yourself and others.

Do your best, and leave room for mercy. You can be both hard and gentle on yourself. It is no sin to have high standards, but please accept that you are human, not superhuman. To some degree, you will fail. But you are not a failure. Receive and extend God’s mercy to yourself, even as you seek to be merciful and caring toward others.

14 thoughts on “Being Merciful to Yourself (especially for caregivers)

  1. Hi Mike
    Article and comments very relatable
    I often do alot of self criticism and expect more from myself so I can
    Provide the best nursing care
    I never feel I measure up
    I have to let go And let God
    Rembering to allow Him to work through me His wlll


  2. Susan, I replied to your comment, but my reply was ‘moderated’;
    maybe it will come back, if not, I will try again later.
    BIG Hug !


  3. I really appreciated reading the post today. I have found it is very easy to beat yourself up about issues that you have no control over. I think it spills over into other area too. For example I wish I could spend more time on my Internet Monk posts than I do. I wish I could respond more to those who comment. But I also know that I am limited in the time I have, and have to accept that sometimes excellence is the enemy that stops people from contributing.


  4. Hello Susan, it’s me, Christiane.
    I am hopeful that you will soon be able to visit with your dear husband, as that is a very precious and irreplaceable thing and even if he is unaware of everything, at some deep level, by the grace of God, I am thinking it helps him that you can come and be with him for a time.

    It was like that for me, those last few days in hospital, with my husband on ventilator and heavily medicated, that I would hold his hand and tell him “I love you, I’m here, you are not alone”. It is my believe that at some level, he ‘knew’ he was loved and that he took this knowledge with him when he passed. I hold on to that. I am at peace which is a gift of grace, as I sense I still have a bond with my husband, even though his physical presence is not here. Such is the benefit of a fifty-one year, six months, and three days marriage where people end up cherishing one another and it does not ‘end’ when one departs for ‘a better place’ and goes on ‘ahead’, no. Sad moments, oh you bet. Like the Irish ‘keening’, but comforting returns to help me in the sadness and am thankful for this.

    Glad to hear you are sheltering. Things are crazy here in this country as people are much divided in how to respond to the virus. . . . some go about as ‘usual’, and the rest shelter and wear ‘masks’ when out for shopping or appointments. So, we are losing a lot of vulnerable souls. My husband died of metastatic cancer, not the virus.
    You take care and this trouble will pass in time. Stay in touch. And no, I’m far from ‘amazing’, just a person who wishes she were more able to be more kind to people, as that seems now to me to be more important than anything.
    Sending big hug. It will be better ‘further on’.


  5. CM, Very timely and thoughtful article and great message to caregivers. I think many underestimate the strain and mental stress being a caregiver takes on the caregiver. In today’s society , with the economic and social pressure it is becoming very hard for us to be the at home caregivers, that use to be the norm. To those of us who are still healthy and mentally alert it would be wise to try to make caregiver arrangements and talk to family well before the need comes up, if it ever does. I have gotten long term health care for myself and wife but know many do not have access to it. I have told my wife and children that if ever I am truly a strain that is okay to place me in a nursing home as I have seen when people just wreck their own health and lives trying to keep up a promise never to place a love one in a nursing home. With the looming baby boomer aging and living longer I shudder to think of the tidal wave coming. Caregivers are mostly just a wonderful example of love and being unselfish. I am buying a copy of the book to leave at a nursing home waiting room that I visit because I know many there feel guilty that they finally had to put their loved ones in a nursing home, they literally were at the end of their rope. This is such an important issue and the book helps.


  6. a reply to Christiane asking after me on May 25th.

    Thank you for you message. I think of you every day as you are going through what must be a difficult period of readjustment. You are an amazing woman.
    Your enties here are so positive and always to the point. I am full of admiration.
    Needless to say you are always in my prayers.

    I am leading a sheltered life with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting Aust also. Not as fiercely as in the US but it has made a bit of a difference to the way we all live and interact with each other.
    I doubt there wil ever be a ‘normal’ again.
    We have had cases in our town and the surrounding area and one death.
    The nursing home has been in complete shutdown. Access will surely happen soon.
    I haven’t seen John since March 11. I have lost count as to how many weeks that is. I telephone him every second day and they hold the phone to his ear but of course he doesn’t reply. I wonder if he recognises my voice.

    I haven’t been well and have had two short stays in hospital. Stress and old age.
    Anxiety and depression follow me around.

    Cheerful soul tonight but I just wanted you Christiane to know I was pleased to see your message to me. Thank you.
    Hugs to you too.


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