“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” – Mr. Rogers

How many of us are the picture-perfect version of ourselves before we even roll out of bed?

Anyone?

How’s your hair? Do you have a spring in your step? Are you smiling?

Our guess is no. The truth is, that we are in our most vulnerable state first thing in the morning. We haven’t yet given our day the chance to claim our attention, our actions, our desires, or our identity. It’s a time when we are our most authentic selves. It’s a time when we can claim our most important identity – that we are a beloved child of God.

This moment in the day reminds us of what United Methodist Founder John Wesley called prevenient grace, or grace that “goes before.” God’s love is not something we need to earn. It’s freely given to us, even before we become aware of it. Before we’ve had a chance to form even a single thought in the morning, He’s already at work loving us. He’s not waiting for us to get up, take a shower, get dressed, fix our hair, or even have that much-needed cup of coffee. He loves us before any of these things even happen.

It can be hard to accept this reality. After all, didn’t we say we feel the most vulnerable first thing in the morning? How could someone possibly love us with tangled hair and morning breath? The fact that so few of us really live as loved people shows us that there is nothing easy about accepting grace. We would rather be in control of our worthiness, and that’s much easier to do after a cup of coffee or two, right? It’s hard to release that control to a grace-filled God.

One habit that can make a difference and allow space for us to awaken to our true identities and love more fully is the spiritual practice of self-compassion. Self-compassion is often defined as a new way of relating to ourselves that reflects the way we would treat others. But it’s actually a way of recognizing God’s grace in our lives. It allows us to heal, thrive, and be happy by recognizing God working within us. When we practice self-compassion and self-care, we can accept God’s forgiveness, strive for authenticity, and reject self-harming behaviors. And when we can finally love ourselves the way God does, we can love others more fully.

Looking for more tips for practicing self-compassion? Download the self-compassion worksheet here.