I had a conversation recently about forgiveness. A person I know had hurt a loved one. They felt so ashamed, they said to me “I don’t know why I did that, I’m better than that, it’s not who I am.”. They were crushed by the pain they caused and they were spending their time beating themselves up in a big way.
My response to the confession was initially a simple “Everyone makes mistakes.” My point being to them is that they are not alone in their mistake, we all make them and a good variety of them at that! I didn’t want this person to feel any more alone than they clearly did. I was trying to convey acceptance and togetherness in one sentence. Thankfully they understood it as that.
We talked about a few things (apologies, righting the wrong, etc. which were all in order as they should be) and then I l said it….. I asked “What’s preventing you from forgiving yourself?” They said that’s it, I had hit the nail on the head – they weren’t able to forgive themselves.
Here’s the thing, we are taught it’s right to forgive someone who’s wronged you in some way. We’ve all seen or read the stories of these incredible individuals who’ve forgiven people for immeasurable crimes against them or their family. We’re all amazed and impressed, wishing we could be that strong if we ever were faced with the task.
In my memory, I don’t recall being taught to forgive myself. I recall Sunday school teachings of forgiveness of others. I recall our parents teaching us to forgive our siblings for breaking a favorite toy, or our teachers telling us to say sorry and make up for a playground dispute. I just can’t recall the same emphasis being put on self-forgiveness. Do you?
We owe it to ourselves. We really do. It’s super hard to learn to forgive yourself, most especially since often the one-sided lesson we’ve gotten was to improve, do better and not go backwards. Anyone else we’d jump to forgive and figure out how to get past whatever situation. Ourselves? We have these crazy expectations of perfection, of incredulous forward momentum, goal achieving madness – standards that we’d not expect from others.
Like so much else in this life this is a skill we have to practice in order to master.
We need to find that balance between expectations of ourselves and forgiving ourselves when we mess up.
Before we work on the skill and balance we need to accept we DO deserve forgiveness from ourselves. It’s another facet of self-love, one that gets missed all too often in the dizzying mix of all of the self-love messages out there. Let’s remember that with love comes forgiveness, so if you love yourself you kind of owe it to yourself to forgive yourself. Don’t leave that out of your equation <3