My wife and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary a couple of months early by escaping this harsh and long New England winter for the peace and sunshine of the Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun. It was a short, but rejuvenating, time away. I felt a twinge of guilt at missing the First Sunday of Lent, but to be honest I got over that pretty fast, and I felt supported and encouraged by my parish.
While sitting at breakfast, outdoors, this past Saturday morning, I was reading a Mexican weekend edition of The New York Times and came across an article entitled, "Being Nicer to Yourself May Lead to Better Health" The writer, Tara Parker-Pope, makes it clear that "self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards." Rather, it's learning to see yourself as not exempt from the human condition. It's a path toward health and self-care, not self-centeredness.
That seems about right to me. There was a link to a website that I also want to share here that is worth exploring: Self-Compassion. I invite you to take the test on that website and reflect on what it means during this Lenten journey.
I see theological and pastoral implications here, and something much more serious than a "self-help" tool. I worry about Christians who use Lent to beat up on themselves. "Remembering that we are dust" does not mean that we are malevolent creatures, just that we are creatures and therefore not God. We are human. And we are God's beloved.