Try a Little Tenderness

A few years ago I led a workshop called the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Compassion, based on a beautiful melodic prayer that is chanted on Yom Kippur. This prayer, its biblical source and accompanying commentaries,  describe thirteen divine attributes of compassion, the last one being v'nakeyh, to be cleansed and purified and made whole. 

In his book The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness, Rabbi Rami Shapiro uses the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Compassion as a framework for reflection and practice on the topic of lovingkindness. Buddhists refer to this as metta practice, emphasizing the importance of cultivating compassion for others as well as for yourself, and for all living things.  

The Jewish word for compassion is rachmones (Yiddish), or rachamim in Hebrew. The grammatical root of the Hebrew word is connected to the word rechem, which means womb–perhaps this reflects the qualities of compassion that are nurturing as well as nourishing. 

You do not have to earn the right to compassion; you are always worthy of this empathic salve.

Try a little tenderness

For it's not just sentimental

She has her grief

And her cares

But a word

So soft and gentle

Makes it easier to bear

–Otis Redding

I love this sweet ballad by Otis Redding. (it's been covered by Michael Buble' more recently) It suggests that tenderness, or compassion, is as simple as a word, or an embrace. 

Some people talk about compassion in a cavalier, oversimplistic manner, when in fact the practice of compassion is powerful, profound and demanding. It is simple but not easy. Too much compassion lacks boundaries, and too little compassion can be cold and narcissistic.

Is it difficult to have compassion for yourself? How might you try a little tenderness for yourself right now?