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Forgiving Ourselves

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I seem to find myself getting in the most trouble- the most predicaments, the most dilemmas and/or the most royal mess-ups/quandries when I am frantically racing. Racing, and not thinking. Which is to say ‘oops, I did it again’- there I go again, doing and saying things I wish I hadn’t. Omitting and forgetting that which is essential and thus important. Sticking my foot in my mouth (e.g. open mouth, insert foot, repeat process ad nauseum).

Because this is life, is it not? Living life large and thus making many small (and large) mistakes that cost us dearly. Oh, the possibilities for error when humans are involved-they are seemingly endless.

And speaking personally, it seems sometimes I just can’t get it right. And I feel like I live my life forever on that hamster wheel of sometimes being right-side up (and life is good) and at other times being upside down (and life is frustrating, disappointing and ‘bad’- largely because of something I’ve forgotten to do, something I’ve said or done. Because of a mistake or wrong that I have done.

And it is so hard to forgive myself. I want to mentally beat myself up for those wrongs- however insignificant and irrelevant they might be to anyone else but me.
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When I cannot forgive myself, it should give me pause to consider: how then am I to ever be given any plausible sense of certainty or credibility that others will believe me when I say I forgive them? If I am that hard on myself- that exacting in my self-afflicted punishments; that demanding; that onerous in the standards that I hold my own self to. How then can I forgive my sister? My brother? My child? And how then will s/he believe me when I say I have forgiven?

Am I not myself the test-subject for proving what I am capable of doing?

And yet. It seems I am in this place far too often- of needing my own forgiveness; having made a rash decision that costs me in the end. A foolish choice that results in me feeling once again that I have blown it. And maybe I am the only one who knows of my error. For usually, it is something small.

Perhaps I have given myself a checklist and failed to perform- failed to live up to my own high standards. Perhaps I have done something more overt that is obvious to those closest to me. Or perhaps more scathingly I have done something to which I have exposed myself to the whole world, or so it seems.
Causing me to feel naked- bare. Leaving me defenceless. Without excuse.

Which is to say: I hate it when I mess up. I.just.hate.it.

And I beat myself up mentally, rehashing the events of what happened over and over again in my mind- like a watching a shoddy film production that just leaves me feeling like I’ve wasted my time. That is what it feels like sometimes. And I am so unforgiving in my editorial comments. The review is always scathing.

And yet. I pride myself on being gracious and caring and compassionate and understanding, dare I say, even generously forgiving when it comes to others. Because that is easier sometimes to do. At the very least, I can forgive when it is not personal to me. When it doesn’t hit so close to home.

Or can I really forgive- is it truly forgiveness or just a mere allowance? Because who am I really kidding? If I cannot forgive myself, how can I hope to have forgiveness for those secondary to my being? How can I truly forgive my neighbor if I have not first practiced the act of forgiving myself?

Forgiveness is a choice: the act of letting go. It is the art of release. It is not telling yourself that what you’ve done is okay and thus excusable but rather it is telling yourself that what you’ve done is human and thus pardonable. It is saying to your Self that there is always tomorrow- there is always another try. It is telling your Self that humility is also strength. And it is telling yourself that in your own fragility there is always the opportunity for growth in character. There is always an opportunity for a lesson to be learned.

When we forgive ourselves, we practice the work of forgiving others. It is a preliminary first step. It is foundational. And it gives us the opportunity to experience firsthand the joy of experiencing the gifts of understanding and mercy and grace.

And how can we give those gifts if we have not first given them to ourselves?

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One thought on “Forgiving Ourselves

  1. Hello Lori,

    I just read your piece in the Huff Post. I love it! I am also a teacher – 20 years as a high school English teacher at a large public school in upstate New York. I would love to send you something I wrote – an Op Ed piece on the new school “reform” and get your opinion. Please let me know if you are interested.

    Thanks, Eileen

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