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Music and the Spoken Word: To the one in the mirror

POSTED: November 27, 2017 8:13 a.m.
Deseret Connect/

Our ability to love others may well depend on how well we love ourselves. This kind of self-compassion is not selfish or self-centered; it is simple kindness. It is nothing more than applying the Golden Rule to ourselves.

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Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

We all appreciate the Golden Rule — Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (see Matthew 7:12) — and for the most part, we all try to let this principle guide the way we treat other people. But do we let it guide the way we treat ourselves? Do we do unto ourselves as we would do unto others? We know we should be loving and kind to those around us — so why are we sometimes so hard on ourselves?

A talented boy worked hard at everything he did, but he was never satisfied with the results of his efforts. One day, after he made a simple mistake, his father noticed him looking into a mirror and talking to himself when he thought no one could hear. The boy’s words were harsh and critical.

Anxious to help, the father stepped into the room and asked, “Son, why are you being so hard on yourself?”

The boy answered that he was mad at himself for making such a dumb mistake.

“Let me ask you a question,” his father said. “If I made the same mistake, what would you say to me?”

The son thought a moment and replied that he would remind his father that we all make mistakes and we can learn from them, and he would encourage him to just keep trying.

“Well,” said the father, “why don’t you say that to yourself? Maybe you could treat yourself as you would treat a good friend — with kindness and respect.”

Just like this young man, many of us judge ourselves much more harshly than we would judge anyone else. Does that really help us improve? Or does it bring us down and reinforce our self-doubts and insecurities? In most cases, when we’re acting like our own worst enemy, we probably are.

Our ability to love others may well depend on how well we love ourselves. This kind of self-compassion is not selfish or self-centered; it is simple kindness. It is nothing more than applying the Golden Rule to ourselves. The understanding and kindness we would extend to others should also be offered to the person we see in the mirror.
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