Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.”
The Charter for Compassion posted the quote above on facebook this morning. It caught my eye because my Epiphany word for this year is "Gentleness." Each year, for Epiphany my congregation receives a word to reflect on or live with. Next year, on Epiphany we share what the word has meant to us. This year, my word is Gentleness.
When I shared it with my congregation, there was a pause and then beautiful laughter. Shrug. I'm not the most gentle person. I'm aware. I'm ok with it. And I find having to live with this word a welcome challenge.
"Be gentle with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others." Hmmm. I'm going to add this quote to the musings around this word and my life.
But the quote was shared along with this picture, a self portrait by Lauren Mobertz. I searched for more information because honestly, I couldn't imagine what kind of self-portrait this was. It turns out that she has painted self-portraits of her as someone else: Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Frida Kahlo...This self-portrait is of her as Andy Warhol. I found myself smiling at the idea of seeing myself as someone else. I'm not a painter but I wondered who might I see myself as? Rainer Maria Rilke? Yes, I can see myself with a black suit looking slightly downward in a thoughtful manner, perhaps with a top hat. Or do I see myself as Queen Elizabeth, staunchly Protestant, regal, lonely but dressed well - in a a dull orange or rust colored gown, jewels on my head?
But what does this have to do with gentleness? Ah... Do I see myself as the other? And does that assist in my ability to be gentle? Only if I can be gentle to me first.