Today, I have been thinking quite a bit on forgiveness. When a transgression has occurred; when we have been wronged; the action of forgiving that action. For me, I can say that it feels fulfilling and healing when I have received forgiveness for a mistake I have made, or when I have hurt another person.
However, what I understand more deeply today, is that the hardest forgiveness to ask for, and to receive, is forgiveness of oneself.
I have done many things in my life, that under other circumstances, I may have made a different choice. For all of those choices that happened in the past, I haven’t been given forgiveness formally from the person or persons that it affected. However, I have given forgiveness to myself.
In those times when I don’t forgive myself, and instead, keep myself on the hook for a choice or behavior out of guilt or shame, in those times I can’t be my best self. I feel so upset, angry, disappointed and ashamed, that I can’t offer anything better to anyone else either.
The kicker is, until I offer forgiveness to myself, I will be convinced that the people around me are the culprits. Take my breakup from my ex partner for example. Before I was willing and ready to forgive myself, for saying goodbye to the relationship, and for moving out of the house, I was blaming her for all that she didn’t do differently; and angry because she wouldn’t just forgive ME already.
When I have not yet forgiven myself for a past action, I will hold onto my judgments of others more fiercely than ever. When I was finally ready to forgive myself, regardless of whether or not I received forgiveness from her, I was free. I no longer had to hold her in a place of judgment, nor did I have to second guess all of the choices that I had made.
Now, forgiving myself doesn’t mean not taking responsibility where I need to, either. That is always something that needs to happen, in my mind. Even though a part of me can believe that I don’t need to take responsibility, that doesn’t hold much credibility. Instead, when I make a bad choice, I get to apologize and take responsibility for that choice, in a genuine way; and then, forgive myself.
If it is true that relationships are as essential to human beings as the air that we breathe, then I believe that I need to do everything that is possible to preserve those relationships.
My very life depends upon it.