One of the most often used phrases people throw around is “forgive, but don’t forget.” While many are champions of applying this to others in their lives, this is somewhere many of us fail at when it comes to ourselves.
What do I mean by that? We are good at forgiving but forgetting when others do wrong by us, but not so good at this with ourselves. When it comes to our own mistakes, errors, stupidities and such, we are more likely to berate ourselves than forgive, let alone forget or not.
As a part of Pathwalking, forgiveness is tremendously important. I am choosing my own path, making my own way, and if I err in the process, I have to forgive myself and move on. But not forget –so that I do not repeat the mistake I have made before.
But I also know that I am my toughest critic. I am harshest with myself, and more likely to hold onto the things I am less fond of, the mistakes I have made, the screw-ups I am responsible for, than to forgive myself for being only human like everyone else.
And I am well aware that I am not alone. It’s a part of our nature to judge ourselves harshest, and thus be less forgiving of our wrongs. But forgiveness is necessary for the sake of advancement.
How do I forgive myself? That’s the question. When I make a mistake, when I fail at my plan, when I am the cause for someone else to feel hurt through my actions or inactions, how do I forgive myself?
What does it mean to forgive? Dictionary.com defines it thusly:
verb (used with object)
1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
3. to grant pardon to (a person).
4. to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.
5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.
verb (used without object)
6. to pardon an offense or an offender.
To absolve, grant a pardon, to cease resenting, to cancel that feeling of liability – this is what forgiving means. We pardon ourselves, we let go of that negative feeling that comes of holding onto what we are not forgiving.
No, this is not easy (is any of this EVER easy?), but it is vital and necessary. Holding on to that negativity, remaining angry, resentful, unforgiving of the self prevents us from making choices, keeps us from choosing paths, and does not let us be who we want to be. So forgiving is very important.
You still haven’t explained how this is done, you may be thinking. I have to be honest here – I am still working on this notion myself. I am guilty of not being forgiving when it comes to myself. But I am striving to do better. These are some ideas on how.
Reflection. I pause, and reflect on the offense, consider what it is I am not forgiving myself for. I examine where it went wrong, how much of it was in my control, and examine what I might do differently in the future. Key here – I don’t reflect on all the “what ifs” of the situation – that would be counterproductive. Reflection is the first step towards accepting the thing that I need to forgive myself for, and not a time for an examination of all the means by which I could have avoided what has already transpired. Which leads to the next step:
Acceptance. I have to accept that I did whatever it was that I am unwilling to forgive myself for. I have to accept that it does not make me less of a person, I have accept that I am not a bad person because I did something I consider wrong or off or whatever for which I am being unforgiving towards myself. I have to acknowledge that I am not a bad, lesser, unworthy creature because I did something I am displeased with myself over. It takes time, it takes work, it takes accepting my flaws and imperfections…but acceptance is a necessary step. Which leads to:
Forgiveness. It is much easier to forgive what you have reflected upon and accepted, difficult though both of these steps might be. But I find if I do some reflection, accept what is, and realize I am not less of a person for my error, I can forgive. It’s no different than forgiving someone ELSE for a wrong – this time it’s just a matter of forgiving ME.
There are other means, other processes, more specifics. Journaling can go a long ways towards expelling and analyzing what is in your head. Meditation can provide insights and ideas towards forgiveness. Sometimes its reminders of the good things you do. Different fixes for everyone, but I think having the steps in place can be a framework for everyone.
I’ve touched on the “forgive” portion, but not the “don’t forget” aspect. Next week I’ll take that next step, and continue this.
How do you go about forgiving yourself?
This is the sixty-ninth entry in my series. These weekly posts are specifically about walking along the path of life, and my desire to make a difference in this world along the way. Thank you for joining me.