help me please…I need an exit strategy STAT!….


My porch is like the seat of all wisdom. Sitting out there and watching people go by, I have more thoughts about life than any other time of my day. Yesterday there was this girl that ran in circles. She would run up the block, and then back down the block, up the block, and then back down the block. I bet she did it 50 times! I kept wondering why she didn’t just break out and run around the park – expand her scenery options. It seemed strange to just keep running the same path over and over again when there were so many other options available…

And then God, in classic fashion, womped me over the head with His wisdom and said, “ya think!!!”

We are creatures of habit and our brains are organs of habit. They like to run the same circuitry over and over again. This can be a great thing if you need to remember how to do your laundry. Once you learn it, your brain can repeat that pattern and you can do it over and over again without much thought. But it sucks when it comes to weird, awkward, painful coping patterns that we learned long ago. Patterns no longer necessary, but we still use because we haven’t figured out an exit strategy.

And I’m on this self-compassion kick lately. I’ve been teaching some strategies to a few people around me just to see how it works, so last night I thought I would deploy it on myself…

I was sitting there watching the lady run circles, my mind simultaneously running circles. It kept running back into my past, picking up baggage, running into my present, and dropping it on my lap. I would see the baggage, feel overwhelmed and ashamed, and then tell myself what weak person I was for still feeling hurt over these things. And then instead of offering myself compassion, I ran back for more baggage to grab – dump – feel overwhelmed and ashamed – and then bash myself for feeling that way. Strange cycle – but one my brain loves none the less. I started to feel like I just couldn’t take it anymore, so that’s when I deployed the compassion bomb.

The baggage was already dropped in my lap, so I couldn’t shew it away. It was already there. I had to look at it, but I could change the way I thought about it. I could offer myself compassion. In my mind I began to tell myself things like…

that was really painful, that probably shouldn’t have happened – but I can understand why it did, that really hurt, you felt so confused, you felt alone, you felt afraid, anyone would feel alone and afraid, you are so scared of being left alone and hurt and not having anyone to help you out, it’s okay that you feel this way, but you are not alone, God is with you, you have great family and friends, you will get through this, you are enough, you are strong, you are a survivor, you have all the skills you need to look at the tough parts of life-deal with them appropriately- and then move forward, God is with you, you can be still…

And I’m serious ya’ll – the exit strategy worked. Instead of cycling back and getting more baggage to feel ashamed of – I felt at peace. Instead of feeling panicked, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. So much that I went inside, and fell into one of the most peaceful sleeps I have had in weeks. This self-compassion thing really works.

So the next time you or your brain starts running the same path over and over again, try deploying the self-compassion exit strategy. Offer yourself the same grace and understanding you would offer to a friend, and offer it up real and with passion. Tell yourself the things you know God is telling you. Think about your favorite scriptures and all the things you know are true. And exit that cycle. There is so much more to see…why keep running the same boring, painful, path?



  1. Jess says

    I used to run laps…but it did get boring after awhile..and now I avoid running in circles if I can help it. Usually I run a couple miles in one direction and when I’m done running I finally turn around and walk back the way I came. I bet the next time I’m out running I’ll think of this now. What a great analogy. I read ch 8 of the mended heart yesterday, which sounds a lot like some of the stuff you’ve been writing about. it’s good to read your thoughts on it as well. I enjoy hearing what you say on the conference calls too, which I need to catch up on today. 😉

    • stephanieclayton says

      Thanks girl! The conf call series has been awesome!!! I have learned so much myself from Nicki and Lisa!

  2. Christy B says

    I have fallen behind but I am truly working on this. Two days before we started the chapter on the church my church came at me. I am having a really hard time. I stopped going to church when I was 18 and just felt brave enough to start in 2012 when I turned 45. I am 47 I have struggled with the Lord the church. I feel like maybe I am here on earth by mistake, no one wants me. I can’t even do details for I fear who may read them. Not that it truly matter they don’t come around anyway.
    I would love #2 Its beautiful.
    Thank you
    You have been a blessing

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