Does the idea of self-forgiveness stir up some feelings for you? Do you question whether you deserve it? Does it feel easier to see the need for forgiving others? Does forgiving others feel virtuous and self-forgiveness feel selfish? What happens when you think about forgiving yourself even in situations when you were hurt or wronged by another?
There is so much written about forgiving others primarily as a spiritual act that sets us free. It’s true that we become freer when we can release our feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment. Those feelings are like holding hot coals expecting that the other will or should get burned. However, we’re the ones who are injured by clinging to those thoughts and feelings. I’m not pretending that it is easy to let go but our own healing and freedom require it.
I’m writing about this today because recently I sent out two Inspire & Reflect emails. The first was titled “Forgive Others”. It received a noticeably higher open rate than most other emails. I found myself wondering if that reflected our virtuous desire to be free from suffering. Or, if it might reflect our belief that it makes us a good person to forgive.
The email that came out the following week was entitled “Forgive Yourself”. It received a significantly lower open rate than typical which led me to the questions at the beginning of this piece. Do you believe that you deserve your own forgiveness and love? I haven’t met a human yet who actually believes that they are perfect and have made no messes in their lives. In fact, everyone I know has had to dip their toes in the dark and painful waters of shame, fears of inadequacy, and questions about whether we’re loveable. We can bury the trash in the backyard but if we leave it there it poisons our ground of being.
I’m also writing this today because I’ve been through a bit of a dark night recently and have had to revisit some deep emotional-spiritual work including forgiveness. It started with appendicitis which really was no big deal. Except when it was followed by an unrelated abdominal test that came up abnormal. Then, while uncertain what was happening in my body, my beloved 14-year-old cat died unexpectedly.
My mind descended into hell filled with uncertainty, grief, and fear. I’ve had cancer 2 times and now I had some unknown thing going on in my abdomen. The raging fear was asking if it was cancer again? From an energy medicine perspective, our lower abdomen is one of our primary emotional centers. I suddenly was made aware of a swamp of feelings that I had no idea were there and had been there for a very long time. I felt layers and layers of fear, anger, sadness, and aloneness. I must admit that it got mucky. I feel like I’m coming out the otherside and I continue to work on it all. (All is well, by the way. No serious conditions.)
Specifically about forgiveness, I’m working on forgiving myself for not knowing all that emotional pain was within me. I’m working on forgiving myself for not being able to just handle it…for feeling so freaking messy. I’m forgiving myself for feeling so vulnerable and scared. I’m forgiving myself for the difficulty in asking for support and help from others including professionals.
If you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I’m fierce about self-care. I’m forgiving myself for not being perfect in my self-care. I’m forgiving myself for blaming myself for getting sick, having medical issues, and not doing enough, well enough to stay healthy. Oh, what a tangled web our minds weave when we lose connection with our inner selves.
The work I’m doing with myself is now an everyday part of my self-care. I’m more consciously taking care of myself in all the emotional stuff that I encounter and absorb by being a sensitive human in this world. It’s good and honorable work. I’m getting to the point now where I’m grateful for how all this unfolded. I’m grateful for what I’m learning about myself and life. I’m grateful for what I’m healing and the process of healing. I’m also still on the journey.
I encourage you to dig deeper in the idea of forgiving yourself. I encourage you to start with practicing forgiveness for yourself and then work on forgiving others.
I want to be really clear here that this is not about blame. However, even if we push it out of our consciousness, we tend to blame ourselves. It might come as, why didn’t you exercise more? Why did I allow myself to be vulnerable to that person? Why didn’t I handle that better? I should have_____ . (fill in the blank with your list of “should’s”.) The pile of should’s is a pile of self blame.
I’ve included the text from the “Forgive Yourself” Inspire & Reflect email so that you might revisit it. I also encourage you to look up the forgiveness meditations by Jack Kornfield. It is a powerful and compassionate approach to letting go, loving ourselves, and healing.
“The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows.” – from the Mastery of Love cards by Don Miguel Ruiz.
My Reflection: Let go of all blame no matter what you think you’ve done wrong in your life. We are always doing our best with where we are in the moment. When we truly have the wisdom to know better, we do better. And knowledge is not wisdom. Living the knowledge is wisdom.
“Knowing all the ways that I have hurt and harmed myself through self-criticism, withholding love, not taking care of myself, and denying my worthiness (or anything else that is true) I ask for my forgiveness now to whatever degree I’m ready.” – from Jack Kornfield’s forgiveness meditation.
This is a daily practice. The root of happiness, connection, and real love is through the gateway of forgiveness. Begin with you. I’m reminded of a Buddhist saying I’ve heard attributed to the Buddha, “There is no one in the Universe who is more deserving of your love, than you.”
My intention today is simply to forgive myself for imperfections, mistakes, or for simply being a messy human.