Do you struggle with forgiveness? I do.
Sometimes. I feel like I know how to forgive and at other times I don’t. I question it. Is it something you do? Or, is it a part of who you are? Is it intrinsic or is it a learned skill?
Why is it easier sometimes to forgive others than to forgive myself? Why can I forgive other people’s *f*ck ups* (excuse my french) more than I can forgive my own? My brain seems to understand that we are all human. That we are not perfect. That to live means to f*ck up and I try to walk through life acknowledging that everyone, no matter how annoying, is doing the best he or she can.
So why am I so hard on myself? Why are my own standards so high that when I don’t reach them, I come down hard on myself. I talk bad to myself.
I wouldn’t hate on my kids when they make a mistake or fail. I understand (and can see in them) that failure is a part of the learning process. It is how we evolve.
So, why am I so hard on myself? And, how can I forgive myself if I’m so mad at myself, so angry, so upset, so ashamed, so embarrassed?
I posed this question recently in my morning pages and to my business coach and she shared with me a passage on forgiveness from Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong. In the passage, Brené quotes Desmond Tutu from his book, “The Book of Forgiving” and it transformed how I think about forgiveness.
Archbishop Tutu writes:
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: The depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.
However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person, too.
This passage struck me for two reasons. One, it honors the fact that hatred and anger are part of the forgiveness process. And, it reframes the idea of hatred from a terrible thing to reality that your anger shows the depth of your love. Thus, I am hating on myself so hard and so intently because I love myself so much. I want the best for my life. I want to become the better person he’s talking about.
Second, the idea that living in my self-hatred locks me into a state of victimhood. I become dependent on my own brain (AKA ego) to tell me if I am worthy of loving or if I need to focus on hatred towards myself today. And, when I focus on hatred then I ultimately do not-so-healthy things to my body. I don’t eat well. I have trouble sleeping or am so lethargic I can’t get anything done. I snap at my kids. I don’t treat myself to yummy things like yoga class or a my favorite nourishing meals.
Desmond Tutu is teaching me that forgiveness includes the full range of emotions. He is teaching me that I don’t need to define myself by my less than perfect acts and that to be the better person I truly want to be, self-forgiveness is actually the key.
This has me realizing that I need to show myself the same kindness I would show my kids in this situation. I need to love myself. Love ALL of me. The parts I like and the parts that make me rage inside. So, I’ve started a love list. I’ve started to write down and say to myself all of the things I need to hear. All of the things a soul sister would say to me.
My list starts like this:
- I love you.
- You’re amazing.
- You’re doing the best you know how in every given moment.
- You are loved, even when you don’t think you are.
- The best is yet to come.
I’m curious, how do you relate to forgiveness, especially when it comes to SELF-forgiveness?
And, if you feel called I invite you to share with me your own Self-Love List. I’d love to read it and honor you as you step into that next level of self-forgiveness.