Father Brian D’Arcy: Compassion towards ourselves is the first step in helping others

Father Brian D’Arcy knows a thing or two about compassion.

One of Ireland’s most well-respected and much-loved priests, Father Brian has been standing up for those in need for more than five decades.

Father Brian spoke recently with the team at I Am Here about life during the pandemic.

The Fermanagh native believes that we have used up most of our energy in self-preservation during COVID-19, and that is understandable given the circumstances.

He strongly believes that, during these difficult times, we need first to be kind to ourselves in order to go on and help others.

While we will never go back to the way things were before the pandemic, Father Brian says, that is no bad thing.

“Looking back over my life, I have never seen anything like COVID,” he insists.

“The value of everyone as a unique human being”

One of Father Brian’s core beliefs is that we have the opportunity to consider the value in every single human being, and a great place to start is in our working lives.

“Do we need to get stuck in traffic? Do we need to live in an office? Do we need to travel all over the world when [technology allows us to chat online]?” he asks.

“How can we rearrange our life so that it’s more thoughtful about the value of the human being?

“There’s a world out there where the individual’s life is being flattened. We need to be able to not only appreciate the value of everyone as a unique human being, but also to encourage that value.

“That is what makes us different from machines.

“We can’t allow the world to develop in such a way that the value of the individual is so diminished that they feel they are dispensable.”

Unforgiving of his own shortcomings

The central theme of much of Father Brian’s work over the years, whether in the church or in the media, has been compassion.

Learning how to act compassionately towards yourself is crucial, he says, especially if you want to show that same compassion to others.

This is a lesson he has had to learn himself, and its value is unquantifiable.

Something I struggled with my entire life is that I could have compassion for the entire world, but was totally unforgiving of my own shortcomings,” he admits. 

[Ultimately] I learned to have compassion for myself—and this is not narcissism. If you’re trying to be compassionate to your own self, then I think it’s easier to communicate that compassion to others. 

We’ve got to do the work ourselves. When we’ve done the work ourselves, we find a natural way to be with others that will communicate itself beautifully.” 

Leave room for vulnerability

Recognising our humanity, he concludes, and how we all make mistakes, is the key to a better life for us all, through COVID-19 and beyond.

“I think we have to be able to understand our vulnerability to overcome it,” Father Brian says.

“We get to a point where we can be totally honest with ourselves. We realise that we are never going to be perfect, and that’s ok.

“Vulnerability and mistakes are part of us all. And the humility that comes from that is the most healing thing that we’ll ever have in our lives.

“Whatever organisation one is with, we can always leave room for the vulnerable.

“Failure is part of success. Vulnerability is part of strength, and honesty and integrity is the only thing that can give us peace of mind.”

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