What is Self- forgiveness and how can I forgive?
Carl Rogers wisely says, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to learn and even more difficult to implement. At the same time, forgiveness is one of the first steps necessary in order to create a shift, a change, steering towards a new direction for yourself.
How is it then, that we forgive ourselves for bad choices, habits, broken relationships, or having been stuck in the muck of "just getting-through-ness" for a while?
Let's define what forgiveness is.
Forgiveness has a similar flavor to acceptance. Some people confuse acceptance as "I'm ok regardless of my choices or actions". That's actually not the case. Acceptance is recognizing your reality, seeing your mistakes and flaws for what they are and how there were consequences because of them (no one gets away scot free). In order to move on and fully forgive and accept, we need to take a bottle of windex and give that glass a good, solid scrub. Something was blocking your vision from seeing your full reflection, from seeing yourself and the choice and behavior you engaged in. Clarity is key. Looking at reality in the face, sitting with it and holding the wisdom you have to gain from the experience. Only then can you move onward.
Pretty please don't beat yourself up.
I'm the last person to say "you're totally ok" as I lean away from sugarcoating. At the same time, I also don't believe in going towards self loathing or self deprecating remarks that steal you from your sense of self.
Being human means making mistakes. Some big ones and some small ones. Our job is taking responsibility for our part by naming what we did and acknowledge the negative consequences. Swinging from being too easy or too strict is essentially an avoidance strategy and won't allow you to learn your lesson.
We're not looking to "get you off the hook", and we're also not looking to create a laundry list of excuses. We want to help you cultivate maturity and to gain something from this "boo-boo"
You may be tempted to minimize the incident by saying "it wasn't really my fault, I couldn't have made a better choice". Or, you may go to the opposite extreme by saying "I'm such a terrible person, how could I have done this" also take you away from being mindful and present.
I get how hard it can be to be connected to yourself, and connected to your reality, when you're devastated by a mistake the you made. Especially if it was out of alignment with who you like to believe you are.
At the same time, you need to hold accountability and move onwards. That's the way to attain forgiveness, and work towards feeling more wholesome.
Dig into the story
There's a reason you did what you did. When we make a mistake we're usually not seeing the whole picture, we're unable to be mindful and wise. This may happen because you may unconsciously be self sabotaging and avoiding taking responsibility for yourself . You may have recently experienced a loss and haven't processed it so you're acting out, or there may be an unresolved trauma that compels you to engage in behaviors that are trying to help you make sense of things around you. Regardless of the underlying cause, part of the self forgiveness process is understanding and naming the reality and what it was connected to. This isn't about avoiding responsibility, but rather gaining information about what is going on so you can learn, know what exactly needs inner work and use that to guide you forward.
Fix it, if you can
I know I've sometimes wished that i could rewind the past and re-do things. We can't though, but sometimes we can reach out to those we've hurt, apologize, take aligned action with who we are when we realize what we've done. You can make this experience one that teaches you a lifelong lesson that can propel you towards clarity, honesty and hold you back from ever repeating something like this again.
Letting go is tough. Especially letting go something that doesn't feel "finished' or just doesn't sit right inside. It can be tempting to beat yourself up, replaying all the "wrongs" you've done. Here's the thing though, when you've taken responsibility and done what you need to learn from this, you've got to let it go; letting go means you are removing past mistakes from the self destructive voices that come to shame you. This is a cleansing process. The dust gets swept out and isn't invited in again.
Think about a loved one you have forgiven, you'd be wise not to bring their mistake up any time they do something wrong, as things need to settle. Time has its way of letting bubbles subside. Giving it time allows the new space between the two of you to be open to new possibilities of rebuilding trust and repairing.
Forgiveness isn't a one-step process. It takes time, it takes contemplation, it takes allowing your humaneness to teach you a thing or two about yourself, and it also means learning how to let go.
Give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You deserve it.
Allow yourself the promise of a better tomorrow and future because of this.
Allow yourself to shed the shame and guilt (both unhelpful).
Allow the experience to be something that offers transformation, eye opening clarity and mature direction.
One step at a time. You can do it.