True justice is forgiveness. Not judgment. Not condemnation. Forgiveness.
Forgiveness of the world starts with forgiveness of yourself, but sometimes that’s just too hard to do. We are all hard on ourselves. How do you forgive yourself?
I face this all the time for things in my past, just like we all do. There’s that one time that I…. Yelled at my kids too hard… Hurt that person’s feelings… Beat up someone… Slept with that one guy (oooh, that one has some guilt with it)…. Married that one guy (just kidding, I love my husband).
But I currently face forgiving myself for the present. I’m a hot mess in many ways I’m not comfortable being. I don’t like who I’ve become. I’m nothing like my past self who was disciplined, resourceful, dependable, and all the things my father was to me. I’m not that anymore. I’m flaky, unorganized… Lost.
Unworthy of my father’s pride.
Just yesterday, I was late for my own birthday party. I didn’t want to go. I was feeling depressed and wanted to go to sleep early instead. When I got up from caving into the temptation of the bed, I told my husband, “I have to get ready for some stupid birthday party.” I was about an hour late, like I usually am anymore. I can’t seem to feel the importance of being on time like I used to. Then I couldn’t find the new shirt I bought last month just for this event. Then I realized I don’t own any nice shoes anymore that aren’t heels that my old-woman feet can’t handle. Yes these are things everyone does once in a while, but I think way less of me for doing these things. I showed up to my party embarrassed that I was that late feeling guilty for making people I love wait on me.
That’s just a little thing. I got way bigger things I’m too ashamed to admit. The more I can’t forgive myself for being flawed, the more my self-esteem and confidence takes a blow. The more that happens, the less apt I am to try to challenge myself to do better. Then I fall down the rabbit hole of being ashamed and unworthy all over again.
It’s almost as if I fall from my own grace, and while I think it’s the sin that makes me fall from that grace, it really is my judgment.
To me, it’s easier to forgive someone for things that are in the past than things they are repeating, and that especially includes myself. The following ways to help you forgive yourself are things that helped me forgive myself. It’s a mixture of Christianity, Zen, and Psychology.
Try to take a look at all the feelings you feel in regards to the things you need to forgive yourself for. Most of the difficulty with that forgiveness lies within feelings. Try to identify all the emotions one emotion gives you, like you may have a main emotion of anger, but a few sub-emotions of things like fear and disgust. Then look at what feelings make you feel those emotions, like unfairness, missed opportunities, struggles, etc.
Try to take a look at your emotions and decipher which ones are standing in your way of your own forgiveness. Then try to decide where you want those emotions to go. What emotions can you transform the emotions in your way to be? Then try to bend those impeding emotions to flow in the direction you want them to go. For instance, we all would love for our sadness to transform into happiness, and you can bend that sadness by trying to find the positive in all the negative, by finding opportunity in the adversity, and by self-talking and self-soothing.
Recognize and Face the Guilt and Shame
Two emotions that truly need to be evaluated are guilt and shame. Are you taking on the guilt of someone else? Why do you feel guilty for things? Remember that a lot of guilt related emotions and judgment are very common in people. The important thing is to try to track what is causing those feelings and face them with truth and mercy.
Remember that forgiveness does not justify or excuse any action, nor does it free you of consequence, but it’s designed to reduce the guilt and shame that often stand in the way of moving forward.
Challenge Irrational Assumptions
Try to look at things rationally (but don’t rationalize). Talk to yourself about your past, and try to identify things that sound irrational to you. It may feel rational, but is it?
Some irrational common phrases include:
- I must be perfect
- I must be loved and approved by everyone I care about
- When people treat me unfairly, it’s because they are bad people
- It’s unbearable
- It’s terrible things didn’t turn out as planned
- I can’t change my misery
- It’s easier to avoid things than to face them
- Because things in my past controlled my life back then, they are still going to control my life
But don’t rationalize, that thing where you try to make irrational things rational. Be honest with yourself about everything.
Reframe with Optimism
Look for positives and opportunities. Instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” tell yourself, “I needed to learn something.” What are you learning? How can what is hurting you be a challenge instead of a problem?
Write a Letter
Write a letter to yourself being brutally honest and emotionally filled. Go off on yourself for doing what you did. Go ahead and let it all out. Then rip up the letter and burn it.
Quit Dwelling on Perfection
We are all human. None of us are perfect. All of us are children in adult bodies. All of us are still learning. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. All of us usually mean well. All of us make mistakes.
Quit Dwelling on the Past
You can’t change the past, so quit hoping for a better past. The truth is time is relative. That’s what Einstein’s big deal was. He said time isn’t linear (like past, present, and future) but relative where the past and present and future can collide into one big mess. Sometimes it feels it’s doing that in our heads, that’s for sure. But the point is to remember that today is tomorrow’s past. If you really want a better past, if you really want to change your past, you are going to have to focus on the present and change that. The more you change TODAY, the more you will change your past.
Forgive yourself because you love yourself. Spend time with yourself. Give yourself praise when you accomplish something meaningful. Write yourself a love note. Live in ways that are healthy for yourself.
Mercy Triumphs over Judgment
Quit judging yourself. Be as merciful to yourself as you would expect Caesar to be to a commoner. See yourself for who you truly are, and not the monster you make yourself out to be. Find the good in yourself, and decide that good is worth saving. Then show a little compassion and sympathy for yourself. It’s not making excuses or wallowing in a pool of self-pity to have pity for yourself. Life sometimes throws brown, rotten lemons. Then do something to show yourself that compassion. Take time the time to nurture the parts of yourself that is without that nurture. Whatever you need, make it a priority to get it.
Try to See Yourself Through God’s Eyes
Some of you may not believe in God, but let me tell you a little about how He works — what Christianity is supposed to be about. God sees us all as His Children. This is why He is often referred to as God, the Father. He’s like the God-Father of souls. When you have kids, they can pop out to be anything and anyone. No matter how wrong they are or what kind of failures they come out to be, most parents love them anyway.
But God takes things another step. He is all about the grace and forgiveness. That’s how He takes the impure and makes them pure again. That forgiveness is the shower that washes off the dirt from our sinful lives and mistakes. I think a lot of self-blame focuses on that dirty feeling after doing something your spirit knows is wrong. When you see yourself through God’s eyes, you realize that you can be made pure again. That you are not who you used to be, but you are the potential you carry.
Reconcile Your Sins through Prayer
For Christians, an important part of forgiving yourself is reconciling your past with God. Prayer is a key component. This also helps align your spirit with that of The Holy Spirit. But every time we ask God for forgiveness for specific things we have done, a part of us forgives ourselves in the process.
The prayer is very important because only Christ can tell you what was on His mind when He forgave all those who crucified Him at His time of death. Only He can tell you how to forgive. It is in the language of the spirit; therefore, it can’t be put into words effectively. You have to feel those answers through Christ.
To the Christian
We tend to avoid the grace because we feel that we aren’t good enough. We feel we don’t deserve it. But it’s not grace if it’s reserved for the deserving. It’s not forgiveness if it’s reserved for some idealistic paradigm of morality and behavior.
The flesh in of itself is immoral in every sense of the word. We are all sinners for a reason. We are born into sin. We cannot avoid it. Only our ignorance dictates that delusion that sinless people deserve heaven and sinful people deserve punishment. That is a concept of judgment and the world that God is saving us from. All sinners who believe in Christ go to heaven, despite their sin, because of His Blood. That is the concept of forgiveness and the grace saving us from judgment.
If you were truly righteous, you wouldn’t need salvation. Forgiveness belongs to the sinners.
Christ talked about how the world is judgmental (everything you say will be used against you), but Christ is greater than the world. It’s important to understand if you are judging yourself, you are doing an act of the world. Forgiving oneself is of Christ.
After being late for my own party, a shot of vodka later, I was more comfortable with my flaw. It doesn’t justify or excuse that I was late, but I am not feeling bad for doing so. With that vodka, I was feeling pretty good despite my annoying quirk, but what really happened was my sister loved me for me despite my shortcomings. She hugged me. She didn’t judge me. Maybe I will always be late for things until the day I die, but the point is I can live with that just as long as I forgive myself every time. The people I make wait can live with it too as long as they forgive me every time.
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