Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

~ Colossians 3:12 (NIV)



Working the 12-step program of Co-Dependents Anonymous has enabled me to have compassion for others. This is largely because doing this work has enabled me to develop some compassion for myself. If I don’t have it for myself, I can’t give it to others. It’s taken me a long time to learn that.

To me, compassion means that I’m aware of how others feel, have sympathy for them, and want to make them feel better.


In doing my service work, as well as at other times in my life, I am genuinely concerned for others and want to alleviate their suffering. What they’re going through usually triggers similar feelings in me based on similar experiences I’ve had in my own life. That is why this program works so well. We share our experiences, learn from each other, and heal ourselves, with God’s help.


So how have I developed compassion for myself? I have had to look in the mirror and say to my reflection, I know how you feel. I care about how you feel. I understand what you’re going through and want to make you feel better.


I have developed compassion for myself by working my program. I journal every morning and pour my soul out to God. I get out my 12 and 12 workbook, do the reading, and answer the questions. The readings from my journal and answers to the workbook questions are often complete confessions from the bottom of my soul of how I’m feeling about whatever is going on in my life at that moment and how it relates to what happened in my past. I read these answers to my sponsor.

Getting these feelings, experiences, and thoughts on paper and out in the open by reading them to someone else gets them out of me and out in the open where I can deal with them. It is then that I can become fully aware of my own suffering. It is then that I can say, Wow, look at what Juliet has been through. That is a lot of stuff. Good for you for surviving it. Let’s make Juliet feel better. Let’s keep working on program. Let’s keep growing closer to God.


The other reason that this step work and journaling works in getting me to feel compassion for myself is that it gets me out of the reactor and into the observer. By reading my thoughts, feelings, and experiences on paper, I can look at them from the observer’s point of view and thus develop an objective view of them. This objective view often needs the assistance of my sponsor and therapist. But then I can look at it, and come back to make the statement I made above. Let’s take what you’ve been through and make something positive out of it. Let’s make a new, more positive, more compassionate Juliet.


In order to develop compassion for myself, I had to get to the mile marker in my distress journey where I decided enough is enough. I had to decide that I deserve to be happy and I need to stop driving myself crazy.


I had to get to the breaking point. I had to step outside of myself and into the observer long enough to be able to see what my defects of character and bad behaviors had done to my serenity level. They have flattened it like a steamroller. I can be my own worst enemy.


I have had several breaking points, but two of them race to the forefront of my mind right away. The first one that comes up right off the bat was my situation with Brad. With Brad, I woke up and realized I could not go on living in the misery I was in. I needed to end the lie and break up with the man who did not love me. I had to admit that I was not able to do casual relationships. This breaking point also made me realize that I had to make my recovery program the number one priority in my life. This included, once again, making my relationship with God my number one priority in my life.


The other breaking point was the illness and eventual death of my beloved brother-in-law Zeb. I remember getting off the phone with my sister and Zeb and putting my face to the floor and surrendering to God. I worshipped that way for a while. (Physical form during worship is the worshipper’s choice.) At the conclusion of this worship, I wrote a note to myself on an index card that said, “I must trust God, there is no other option.” I looked at it and took a deep breath. This was God talking to me.


I then realized that I had no control over what life brings to me. I only have control over how I react to it. That means that I have to stop torturing myself with over-responsibility, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, perfectionism, workaholism, and all the rest of my defects. I saw myself from the observer’s point of view and recognized how distressed I have made myself from my unrealistic expectations of myself.


Reading scripture has taught me that I am a beloved child of God just the way I am and that I deserve to be happy and serene. I deserve to stop beating myself over the head. I deserve to stop working for 5 minutes.


So, out of compassion for myself, I’ve made it a habit to put down the lesson plans, violin, book, rake, vacuum, to step away from the computer that is absolutely exploding with emails from my students’ parents. I step back. I go sit on the porch and breathe in and out for 5 to 10 minutes without doing anything. I take a break. I go for a walk. I talk to God. I get on my knees, on my face, and ask for help from Him. I use the slogans.


I say, “God, help me let go of what I can’t control. I can’t God, you can, please take over.”


Whatever it is, I turn it over to God.
This is me being compassionate with myself. It all starts there. Then I can learn how to be compassionate with others.


I compassionately do the 12th Step, being of service to others.

12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.[1]



I am compassionate to others by hosting CoDA meetings, listening, taking 12-Step calls, praying for others, and putting notes in my God Box for them. I give them to the Creator, our ultimate, perfect, loving, ever-present, ever-caring God. That is compassion at its finest. God parted the Red Sea, sent his son to die for our sins, sent an Angel to break Peter out of prison, and killed the entire Syrian army overnight, amongst many other amazing things. He can take care of whomever I’m worrying about in any moment.


By giving others to God, I am having compassion for myself. I can’t fix others. I can’t even fix myself. Only God can do those things. Now He can work through me to help me do for myself what I otherwise could not do alone.


I can share my sympathy for others by letting them know I care. I can listen with love if they need to share. I can even listen with compassion and, most of the time, not try to fix it. I couldn’t do that before I started working the program. I would try to fix their problems, lay awake nights trying to figure out how I could fix them, fix their problems. I don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this work I’m doing.


I have compassion for others, whether it is my colleague who lost her husband suddenly, the 15-year-old student who lost her battle with leukemia, my friend who just had a stroke, or my friend who is facing heart failure. I care about these people and want to end their suffering. I reach out to them. I give them to God. That is compassion.


How I strive to be like my late Quaker friend, Beth. She was the picture of compassion. She was one of the most patient, kind, caring, sympathetic, and loving people I have ever known. She was a beautiful peaceful soul. I miss her.


I am developing compassion for myself by nurturing myself. I nurture my spiritual self by giving myself time to worship God, read and memorize scripture, listen to sermons in my car, and go to Quaker Meeting. I nurture my creative soul by giving myself time to practice my instruments, write music, paint, and write my books. I nurture my whole self by going to CoDA meetings, doing my step work, and by listening to my own taped step work in the car.


Then you know what happens? I have compassion for others, especially my students. When I see a student who is sad, not having a good morning, I can now stop and look at them and think, “Wow, they look tired today. Maybe I’ll back off. They’re probably doing the best they can. This is how they are today.” I put their comfort and welfare in front of my selfish inner desire to look good at the concert in front of my colleagues and parents. It’s not all about me. It’s about the kids.


I am a child of God. This belief helps me look for the God in others.


God help me come from a place of compassion in all areas of my life and with everyone that I meet, including myself.


Thank you, God.




[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. Co-Dependents Anonymous. Dallas, TX:  CoDA Resource Publishing, 2009, p. iv.


  1. Another great read, thank you for these messages. They help a great deal.

    • Thank you John, I appreciate it. It is difficult to get myself out there. I am sorry you are not feeling well and hope you are feeling better soon!

      In the Light,



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