I simply didn’t understand the concept at first. But there I was, sitting at my dining room table, elbows on the table and wide-eyed as I read these words that seemed too simple to actually work.
We forgive others when they make a mistake. We ask for their forgiveness when we act improperly or say something we shouldn’t. But in all of the years since preschool of learning this same basic human concept time and time again, I had never considered turning it inward. Never once. I could forgive others, others could forgive me, but forgive myself?
So I said it out loud, as the prompt recommended. Maybe, if I just tried it once.
I forgive myself.
It felt nice, so I did it again.
I forgive myself for feeling guilt/unworthiness/impatience/shame/fear/embarrassment.
And it was after the third proclamation that I started to really mean it. I felt a lightness in my chest as if I was no longer carrying the weight of something that wasn’t meant for me to carry. At least not for this long. As I allowed for this lightness, I accepted where I was right at that exact moment, instead of where I was before… whether it was two minutes prior, last Tuesday, or 10 years past.
It was a Sunday and I had been working through some readings recommended to me by my mentor. I expected to be inspired, feel more connected, understand more about myself, but I didn’t expect this. In fact, I didn’t know this feeling was even possible. My entire life didn’t change right then and there, BUT it ignited in me the realization that I was worthy of forgiveness and that forgiving myself would set me free. And it did continue to set me free from feelings of unworthiness, past mistakes, and guilt – built up over the years and fears and anxiety related to new surroundings, social situations, and what I was worthy of becoming. In forgiving myself, I essentially gained my confidence. I could forgive myself. I could be free.
And I forgive myself for waiting 29 years to learn it.
Because who would I be now to let that hinder my progress? This is the time it took and I honor that journey. I also take it as an opportunity to do two things with this treasured knowledge:
- Forgive others in a more loving way. Instead of simply saying the words, I visualize sending love and peace their way – whether they ask to be forgiven or not. I send it anyway. I have compassion for people who are broken because we all are at times broken. Life can be messy and we react… sometimes in rather ridiculous ways. We are all worthy beings, regardless of our faults and less-than-perfect moments. Granting someone the chance to try again, without judgment, is vital to promoting the cycle of forgiveness. Whether they fully grasp the gift now or 15 years from now, I’ve done what I can to guide them there. But they must take it from here and learn to forgive themselves. To see the beauty in growth and change and know you’re capable of expanding.
- Share what forgiving yourself looks like and the freedom it can bring. I fully intend for my friends, coworkers, strangers on the street, my family, and now my son… to understand the gift that is self-forgiveness. To know it is an option always – right now and in the future. When we give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, we’re not releasing responsibility or the impact we may have had on ourselves or others. In fact, when we forgive – we’ve honored this responsibility greatly – and we are now ready to take the lessons with us, not stay stuck with them. But there’s no room for the feelings of self-doubt, shame, unworthiness, and guilt. Let those go without fear of acting in the same way in the future. Without a loathing of always being the person who did x, said y, or imprisoned your worthiness for a decade or more.
It’s easy to fall into the thought that you are broken, while the people in our lives are living without shame or guilt. Why is this?
We are careful to hide our judgmental comments from each other, for fear that others will see our imperfections and judge us in return. We hide the stories that would make us look unfavorable. The unsavory thoughts… you know, those things we irrationally fear others can pick up on, even when we’re never spoken them aloud. We hide with our feelings of shame and guilt as we believe we are unworthy because of our flaws. It becomes this cyclical process of feeling shame, hiding, and detaching from our authentic and worthy selves. Over and over until we don’t think we’re worthy of success or happiness or feeling loved. Or of being seen and appreciated and celebrated. Because that’s something that’s meant for the people who have it all together. The ones who don’t become impatient or do stupid things or say something they regret. Wrong-o. It’s for all of us. Love and worthiness and freedom is for all of us. And when we forgive ourselves for not being the best version of us – then we have the chance to do it right the next time. We’re all human beings. Send love and peace to yourself and it will become easier to radiate that love and peace to the world and the entire Universe. Only good things can come from this open-arms acceptance of our own humanness. So show yourself, live authentically, be free, shine your light, and love others just the same.