Self-Forgiveness: Forgive Your Mistakes

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing the painful behaviors or actions of another to continue in your life. Sometimes, forgiveness means letting go. You forgive them and release them. Taking a stand and setting healthy boundaries are often the most loving things you can do—not only for yourself, but for the other person as well.” – Louise L. Hay

(Don’t forget to check out my workbook on self-forgiveness!)

Forgiveness, oh how I loathe you sometimes. Forgiveness seems to be the theme of my life lately and what a huge theme it has turned out to be. Besides love, I’m hard-pressed to think of any other theme that so prominently weaves its way in and out of lives. It is needed as much as love. Love can not survive without forgiveness.

This past week I’ve allowed myself to work on forgiveness, whether it be towards myself or towards others.

It has involved tears, it has involved laughter, but most importantly it has involved transformation. Several weeks ago I was walking home, it was cold, windy, and rainy and really a pretty miserable morning. I had been so sure that it was going to be a nice, sunny, late winter morning with a hint of warmth. I was wrong. Being stubborn as I am, I walked home anyway and during that walk, while shivering and getting soaked, came the most astonishing epiphany I’ve ever had.

Self-Forgiveness: I can forgive myself.

Throughout my life, I’ve made some pretty bad choices. Choices that I repeated again and again. Choices that caused me so much pain and mental anguish that I can’t honestly tell you why I made those choices. Why for years, I made those choices. I did things that I whole-heartedly regretted with every fiber of my being. I allowed myself to be in relationships that perpetually broke me down and did nothing to build me up. I wasted so much time trying to keep my head above water just so I didn’t drown because it was all I could do sometimes just to breathe.

I was wasting my life, and you know what I discovered? It’s okay.It is okay that I made those mistakes. It’s okay that I wasted those moments. It is okay that I went down those dark paths, over and over, even though I knew better. It’s okay because I learned from it. I did the best I could do with what I knew at the time. I was the best I could be for myself and for the people who were in my life. I did my best. How can I be angry with myself for that? How can I feel guilt when I only ever did all I was capable of doing in that moment? I can’t. I forgave myself for my mistakes and for being a screw-up. It was surprisingly easy to do. Maybe it was finally the right time.

Self-forgiveness is one of the greatest things I’ve ever felt.

I wish I had learned that lesson sooner because I think I would have been a happier person. We are all doing the best we can in whatever moment we’re in. Even in those moments when we feel like we can’t do anything/be anything/feel anything, I firmly believe that just breathing is enough. It’s good enough. We try as hard as we can and even if that doesn’t measure up to anyone else’s standards of ‘enough’ it is enough.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with forgiving others. It doesn’t come as easily to me as forgiving myself. I think it’s because I know what I am, and am not, capable of. We tend to believe that other people should know better and do better than what we can do. I can’t look at someone and know for sure that they weren’t trying to hurt me. Who wants to forgive someone that purposefully hurt you? Yeah, that would be me, I do. Holding a grudge, being angry, being resentful doesn’t do me any good. Most of the time it hurts me, it makes upset, emotional, my stomach will hurt and I’ll be pretty miserable. In the past I would find a way to make other people hurting me, my fault. What a shitty way to live right?

Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

I firmly believe that. If you think back to something someone did to you, something that to this day bothers you, even though it happened a year ago, three years ago, or five years ago. Do you think the other person even remembers? More than that, do you think they even care? Probably not at all, or at least not as much as you’d like. So what’s the point? If you aren’t teaching the other person a lesson, if the anger/resentment isn’t helping anyone, then why, oh, why, why, would you carry it around with you? Easier said than done, believe me, I know.

Sometimes we have to just let it “sit” until we are ready to deal with it.

That might be a few days, maybe months, maybe even years. Sometimes it’s too hard to deal with and we have to wait for the tools/people/situations to draw that bitterness out of us. It’s a work in progress. I don’t expect anyone to fling open their arms with a “Ahhhh!!! I forgive everyone!” and have it work. Although, if you try it and it does please tell me.I’ve been doing this exercise from Loise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life, where you say out-loud, “The person I need to forgive is _____ and I forgive you for ____”. Sounds silly right? Maybe, but it works. You’d be surprised of how many little grudges you are holding on to, or how many things that you thought you’d never forgive that you suddenly realize just don’t matter anymore.

I was doing this exercise when I went to say I forgave someone for something that happened last year. This thing was a big event in my life and it hurt me in a lot of ways. I remember thinking, at the time, that I was never going to get over it, definitely never going to forgive it, and it was pretty much going to haunt me forever as this big statement of why people don’t love me and I suck. I said the person’s name and I started to say the situation and then I was like “Waaaaaaaiiiit. I’m over that!” Honestly more than that I’m thankful for it.

Usually, the toughest situations inspire the most growth and boy did I grow.

Kinda hard to hold a grudge after realizing how much of a better person it made me.For me, the hardest thing about forgiveness is feeling like you are giving other people permission to treat you badly.

If you forgive everyone for every bad/hurtful/horrible thing that they do to you, over and over again, won’t they keep doing it? Honestly yes, they probably will. If it is a pattern that they exhibit, then no amount of forgiveness is going to fix them.

They need to fix themselves.

Which is why you need to look at why you’re allowing yourself to be in that person’s orbit. If someone is hurting you on purpose, forgiveness does not mean acceptance. It doesn’t mean you condone it. It just means you have to look inside yourself and figure out why you think you need to stick around and be treated like that. Hard task? You wouldn’t think so, but it is. Forgiveness is for YOU, it is not for them.

I challenge you to look at yourself and find a little self-forgiveness, be it for yourself or someone else.

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