A slightly different version of this post was published on Elite Daily. Read it here: http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/self-forgiveness-setting-free/968570/.
Have you screwed up recently? Well, I often feel like the month can’t be over if I haven’t yet “blown it” somehow… if I haven’t yet let something fall through the cracks, if I haven’t yet realized I made a bad decision, if I haven’t yet hurt someone’s feelings or let someone down–even including myself. I screw up all the time, and I absolutely beat myself up about it.
Many people might feel badly for a couple hours and then move on. I tend to ruminate about all the bad decisions I’ve made in my 23 years of living: ‘I shouldn’t have done that, which led to this, which led to that, which is why my life and I are so screwed up!’ See any problems here? That sort of thinking is cyclical and literally good-for-nothing. If I’m stuck on my mistakes, missteps, and downfalls, how am I supposed to grow from them? This negative thinking pattern is a bad habit that must be consciously worked on to break. There’s no changing the past. Period.
If you’ve ever felt like a loser, who’s bound to fail under the glare of spotlights or critical eyes, you’re not alone. You’re SO not alone. One of my recent blunders: I took someone’s action on social media personally, instead of through the appropriate business lens. Then, after having one too many drinks, I basically told a family member, “Forget you!” I should have openly discussed my concerns with my family instead. I really screwed that up and hurt a lot of people’s feelings.
Have you ever felt sick to your stomach solely due to shame? It’s not an uncommon occurrence.
Many of us are shame-stricken. Our addictions and low self-worth have caused us to believe that God doesn’t love us–couldn’t possibly love us–because of the things we’ve done. But somehow we believe that He loves everyone else, because there is no one as bad as we are, no one has disappointed God as much as we have.
Scott Reall, Journey to Freedom
Well, guess what? God does love us. He sees us at our weakest. He sees us at our most vulnerable. He knows our most painful thoughts. He also knows our intentions. He is omniscient. He will never abandon us even when we turn our backs on Him and shame ourselves, because we are His children. Guess what else? I’ve learned that many people are surprisingly compassionate–much more so than we expect, when we simply show them our honest hearts. As Scott Reall writes in Journey to Freedom, “Most people will not abandon us or reject us if we become honest and confess our struggles. Most people will meet us in our pain and comfort us.” But get this: we can’t be honest and open with others, if we can’t be open and honest with ourselves! It’s entirely possible to remain in denial about our screw ups, our bad habits, our irreversible decisions, and the immediate repercussions of them. We can glean positivity from these things, but only if we learn from them and grow as a result.
If we’re going to be all that God uniquely made us to be, we must first forgive ourselves for our own indiscretions. Yep, you read that right. We must be able to forgive ourselves even when we think we’ve been the biggest dumb asses on the face of the earth. That’s the first step to making lasting improvements and changing for the better. It’s a necessary step in breaking the bad habit of rumination (dwelling on the past).
We’re not giving ourselves a “free pass” when we do forgive ourselves; we’re giving ourselves mercy, because we’re merely mortal humans who intend to make better decisions! I’ve made decisions in my life I still haven’t been able to come to terms with… and I don’t know if I ever will, but I know I should accept those less-than-ideal decisions and outcomes as what they are–unchangeable, irreversible. Isn’t that the first step to “recovery”? I can’t move on to more positive endeavors or create opportunities for better experiences in the future if I never close negative chapters of my life.
By forgiving ourselves, we become more in touch with the compassion God blessed us with. We therefore become more empathetic and more able to relate to how others feel about their own transgressions. If we’re lucky, this leads us to be more forgiving in our dealings with others. Now, THAT’s freeing!
I hope God will help me find the strength within me to forgive myself… and thereby improve my ability to honestly forgive others in my heart and even to their faces. I also pray that He will bless you with the same strength.
If you’re curious about the benefits forgiveness yields, that’s another topic in itself. Read the Mayo Clinic’s take on the forgiveness of others if you’re so inclined.
Peace, love, and chocolate,
Song on my playlist today:
- “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up)” by Kip Moore
- “Damn Regret” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
- “Never Alone” by Barlow Girl
- “How to Love” by Lil Wayne
- “Your Guardian Angel” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
- “Mockingbird” by Eminem