Science Fact of the Day #4: Francis de Sales and the Science of Performance

In a 2004 study, it results were discovered which “suggest that self-compassion is associated with adaptive motivational patterns and coping strategies in academic contexts…”

Self-compassion “involves being open to and aware of one’s own suffering, offering kindness and understanding towards oneself, desiring the self’s well-being, taking a nonjudgmental attitude towards one’s inadequacies and failures, and framing one’s own experience in light of the common human experience… ”

Now, this is a fairly early study of self-compassion as a psychological model, but more recent research seems to confirm the results or at least fails to disprove them.

Now, in my own opinion, there are times for being harsh with yourself. But that’s in relationship to immediate experience like finishing a set in the gym, making yourself finish a hard assignment, show up to work when depressed, or some such thing. Being “hard on yourself” post failure makes no sense. The cake has been baked, you can’t get the ingredients back.

Anyhow, Francis de Sales had interesting insights into this subject a few hundrew years ago:

“So too when we have committed some fault if we rebuke our heart by a calm, mild remonstrance, with more compassion for it than passion against it and encourage it to make amendment, then repentance conceived this way will sink far deeper and penetrate more effectually than fretful, angry, stormy repentance.” (Introduction to the Devout Life Book III Chapter IX)

He goes on to say:

“…do not be surprised if you should fall. It is no wonder that infirmity should be infirm, weakness weak, or misery wretched.”

De Sales observed that it’s important to frame your experience in terms of common human experience. And because of that he recommended that we show ourselves compassion when we fail. He didn’t mean to ignore our failures or to overlook them, but “with great courage and confidence in God’s mercy to return to the path of virtue which you have forsaken.”


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