Learning to forgive your self is not an easy task – it’s a process which takes place over a period of time. There are many ways to arrive at the point of forgiveness. Each step brings a subtle shift towards inner peace and acceptance. I recently watched this video on forgiveness and it inspired me to write this blog. Here is my personal story of forgiveness.
I think we often do or say things that harm ourselves or others when our needs are not being met. This could come from an early childhood experience where we feel we are not “good enough” or “not accepted”. There are many reactions to feeling not good enough – trying to be better than someone else, feeling we have to prove ourselves, trying to obtain as much attention as we can from other people at any cost, treating other people like they are not good enough, being selfish, being invisible… the list goes on.
For much of my life I was blind to how I was behaving – I was doing the best that I could with what I knew. It was only through many years of experiences (sometimes difficult ones), personal reflection, asking questions, reading and learning that I realised how much “not good enough” was affecting my life – and hurting others.
I remember at one point writing my story in two different versions. Firstly, as the victim(poor me) with all the things that went wrong, blaming everyone else and taking no responsibility. Secondly, as the heroine, the person who learnt and adapted from each experience, who was helped by others and was willing to change. A person who became a better one over a period of time. Writing these two stories was quite a challenge for me. As the stories unfolded I started to see the effect of my actions – and the impact it had had on people close to me. Upon this realisation I wept with sadness: I felt ashamed and guilty.
This guilt stayed with me for a long time. I remember trying to appease a past relationship through a new one. Somehow I felt if I could “make things up” with the new partner, I would get be forgiven and get off the guilt hook. Of course this didn’t work! My new partner refused to accept my attempts to make things better, and I felt desperate and frustrated. I had no way of healing this situation with the original people. I had definitely learnt my lesson and wanted to do things differently (restorative justice) but how could I be free of this guilt? I was in a no-win situation – lesson learnt but I was stuck in prison with guilt. The guilt made me feel so bad. It fed back into my “you are not good enough” conditioning.
In the end I realised that the only way forward was to stop punishing myself and let myself out of jail. Ohhh it was hard. Had I punished myself long enough? I had certainly been flogging myself with remorse, regret and recriminations for a very long time.
And yet, I could not really stand strong in the lesson, if I didn’t free myself of the guilt. I had two choices:
Option 2 seemed the only alternative. So I tentatively stepped out into forgiveness. I let myself off the hook. I decided I would forgive myself once and for all. To do this I created an imaginary process where I talked to all the people concerned. I talked about my needs and how I had wanted them met, and how I acted to try and get them met. I stepped in their shoes to see things from their point of view. I was fair to myself, I accepted that it was a two way interaction and I wasn’t totally at fault. I was gentle with myself. I wasn’t born with the manual on how to live life – and sometimes mistakes are made. I told them what I had learnt and how I choose to behave now. I explained what I could have done differently, and what my new standards are now, based on this knowledge.
I asked them to forgive me. And then I FORGAVE MYSELF. I said goodbye to the guilt and walked out of the prison I had made for myself. I then celebrated that it was all over and thanked them for the experience.
Over the following months I watched my mind for the old punishing thoughts that wanted to return. Each time they came, I reminded myself that I am forgiven, and that it’s over now. I have learnt the lesson and live differently. I give love to myself, I accept what happened and that I cannot change it. I let myself feel inner peace.
Forgiving myself has brought inner peace to me. I am still learning and growing. I expect I will do many forgiveness processes in my lifetime – for mistakes in life are common. However it is wonderful to be free and shining my light once again.
Please do not think this is a magic formula for forgiveness. It isn’t. Many people have helped me along the way: friends, family, counsellors, authors, healers. We all have our own way of getting to inner peace. It’s just a matter of conscious choice. Do we want our heart to be hurt and closed all our lives? Or do we want to have it open, trusting, wise and free?
I recently watched the movie “Mr Holmes” – it is a wonderful story of forgiveness and healing for an old man and the people around him. Life is such a mystery and one of the greatest miracles is that of getting to a place of forgiveness.
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