I’ve been thinking about this word since yesterday – or not thinking about it so much as feeling it and being with it.
So here’s what comes to me: you know how they say you can’t love someone (fully or authentically) until you love yourself?
I believe the same is true with forgiveness – indeed, that the two are intricately interwoven. You can’t forgive someone until you forgive yourself.
I think that’s why it’s often so hard to forgive people – because underlying all that is step 1 – forgive yourself. For instance, I had the hardest time forgiving my ex-husband for my abortion. On the surface, I could easily say “It wasn’t his fault etc. etc.” but deep in my heart I wasn’t that glib. It wasn’t until I forgave myself for it, that I could forgive him. And that forgiveness wasn’t easy. It required taking responsibility – my choice. my decision.
Sometimes it works in more subtle ways. Sometimes it’s not our fault, but if we believe it’s our fault (true or not) we have to forgive ourselves at some deep emotional level. When I was young, I thought it was my fault that my parents were fighting and shouting and angry. As an adult, I know this is not true. Still, I had to forgive myself – not because it was my fault, but because I believed it – and I had to forgive myself for even having that belief. I had to stop my inner voice from saying – “what a stupid thing to think!” I had to embrace that child and forgive her for being so innocent and fragile.
We are generally far kinder to others than we are to ourselves.
I’ve had many moments of shame throughout my life – like the time I auditioned for leader of the Pursuit of Excellence and crashed and burned on stage in front of all the other leaders and the founder of the company. Oh yes, I could tell a story about that incident – every tortured moment of it. We don’t talk about shame – we hide it. As Brene Brown says, shame feeds on secrecy. And so I’m pretending everything is “just fine” – where is the forgiveness of self?
I have to own my shame. I have to own my actions, thoughts, words – and forgive myself.
It is said, correctly I believe – that forgiveness sets us free. If I can do that, if I can forgive others – if I can forgive myself, then I will be free.
It takes conscious effort. I like to tell the story of how I was “hard done by” by my first husband – how he played the suicide card when I left him. Have I forgiven him? I doubt I would still be telling that story with such relish if I had. More importantly, have I forgiven myself? Have I owned my part in the deterioration of the relationship? And then, have I forgiven myself? Once I have done that, I suspect forgiving him will be easy.
Love and forgiveness – intricately joined together.