The theme of learning to forgive self and others has been coming up recently in my interactions with others and myself. I think forgiveness is a difficult concept, and we add a lot of expectations on top of it that may or may not be accurate or helpful.
Forgiveness is about letting go of anger and resentment towards someone who has hurt you. You release the other person from some unwritten obligation to make it right to you. Often, that person doesn’t know what they have done that is so wrong, or simply doesn’t understand how they hurt you. When you hold on to that resentment and anger, you continue to keep the pain alive, only to hurt yourself. It can also be stressful to the people who love you. Forgiving someone who has hurt you does not even have to involve them. You can forgive another in your own heart and never speak to them about. In fact, this might be preferable if that person is no longer living or could still harm you or is not emotionally able to appreciate and understand your gesture.
Forgiving yourself is so much harder. I find that even after I’ve apologized for a wrong-doing and been absolved of it by the other person, I often still carry it around with me. I pore over what I did wrong and how many other, similar situations I’ve created. I question my motives and actions and almost everything else about myself. I toss and turn at night and wish I could turn back the clock to before it happened so I can find a way to prevent it. None of this, of course, does any good for me or for other people affected by my actions. It’s even worse when the only person I have hurt is myself, or if I’ve simply let myself down – again.
I let other people have their faults and flaws. Generally, I can forgive them easily with just and apology because I understand that mistakes happen and that they often didn’t intend to hurt me. I have a much harder time being so easy on myself. I have this crazy idea that everyone else is allowed to make mistakes and be less than perfect, but that I am not. I carry around guilt and shame like heavy weights on my back, and the only one who can let them go is me.
I think forgiving myself comes back to learning to love myself with all of my flaws and faults, being able to open my heart up enough to let the hurt go. The biggest lesson I am learning is that I need to treat myself with the same compassion that I extend towards others in my life. I deserve forgiveness as much as they do. And I simply don’t need to hang onto this anymore. I invite you to practice this with me as we move forward on our journeys.