“We want to cultivate this aspect of Self that will be very alert, completely attuned, observing what we are feeling, hearing, seeing, experiencing without the harsh and judgmental thoughts that normally accompany the observations. We want to cultivate ‘The Gentle Observer.’” -Lynn Louise Wonders
The work of becoming a Gentle Observer starts within. I must learn how to be gentle with myself, extending grace inward - even as Christ has extended such grace and mercy - in all areas before I can offer such grace to someone else. Why is this so difficult, this being gentle with myself? I rip myself to shreds on the rocks of self-criticism, being overly harsh to judge my own feelings, thoughts, musings, options, choices, emotions or lack of thereof as inherently - well, wrong. As if there is a "right" or "wrong" to processing pain, grieving, working things out, being authentic and honest in my day-to-day walk of slugging things out, growing, learning, healing or being real with myself and God. Cloud & Townsend call this overly harsh mindset the "internal parent."
How strict is your internal parent these days?
Traditionally, my own internal parent is rather strict, harsh, even. Such a hostile environment doesn't promote growth, healing, accurate perspective. Thus, toxicity builds and despair deepens; cynicism sets in. It becomes harder to see myself as wonderfully created in the image of God - called to be His beautiful bride and deeply, personally, intimately loved by Him. My faith-based relationship starts to lean more toward works of service and the entire paradigm begins to shift dangerously toward a very slippery slope.
What does being a Gentle Observer look like? I first heard the description "Gentle Observer" at a women's workshop in Minnesota. We discussed the idea that being a Gentle Observer of Self included the concepts of extending grace to ourselves in multiple areas:
- It is okay to fail. Nobody is perfect. Nobody.
- Know your limits; ask for help or accept help when it is offered. Someday, you will have the opportunity to return the favor.
- It is necessary and healthy to accept any and all emotions as valid - no matter how ugly or "unacceptable" they might appear to our social or religious circles. Fully embrace the emotions you have by acknowledging they exist, identifying them, owning them and then eventually working to release them in healthy ways.
- You have choices. Some of these choices may be scary or ugly - and that's okay, too. Acknowledge your choices and grieve any associated losses with grace and gentleness.
- Forgiveness is sometimes a process that takes time; it doesn't always happen immediately - nor should it.
- It is healthy to set boundaries. Healthy - not selfish! Your "no" is just as valuable as your "yes." Find the balance and learn to serve others from a deep well, not from a well that has run dry. Serving from a dry well produces resentment.
- Love yourself; fully and well. Get reacquainted with who you are, your likes and dislikes - what makes you tick. Christ saw such value in you, He died to make you His bride. Take care of yourself. This, too, is worship.
Becoming a Gentle Observer of Self doesn't happen overnight. After all, our internal parent has been a resident for years - decades! Becoming a Gentle Observer is a process...filled with freedom. And peace. Deep peace. It's not without it's hesitation or moments of panic and it is work - hard work. It is so freeing - burdens lifted. I invite you to take the journey toward observing yourself gently.
A side benefit I have found when I am actively working on being a Gentle Observer of Self: it becomes a little more natural to be gentle with and extend grace to others. I wish you all deep peace and great freedom in your journey ahead.