Forgiving Yourself

When we get around to the matter of forgiveness, it is often hardest to extend it to ourselves and God. 

We’ll cover the matter of forgiving God for later. Today let’s consider how much we need to be compassionate towards ourselves of a lifetime of mistakes, be they minor or significant, genuine or merely perceived. We don’t really have to carry around guilt and possibly shame. The process of giving ourselves a resounding not guilty verdict isn’t easy. It’s a path overtaken with brambles. 

May I share an example from my own life?

When I was young, I spent a lot of time with a great brood of cousins. One was several years younger than me and we were frequently together on weekends, holidays and during summers. As much as I loved her, and I dearly loved her, she was at times a frustratingly bratty kid (ahem, not that I was any where near perfect!). There was a lot that I had to cope with when I was growing up and without siblings on site, my 8- or 9-year old self had pent up anger that was easily triggered by my cousin. I’d pinch, bite and dig my fingers into her arms, unable to control my feelings or behavior. 

I felt very guilty about how I treated my cousin and also about my inability to avoid it. At some point I started picking my arms until they bleed. I had scabs and scars up and down both arms, which were usually confined to long sleeves in public no matter the weather. I was deeply embarrassed about my behavior that couldn’t be hidden well.

One spring day when I was in my early 30s, it occurred to me that I was carrying guilt for “picking on” my cousin, inflicting harm as punishment for the guilty verdict I  pronounced on my childhood self. 

Although I didn’t see or have much contact with my cousin at that point, I called her and I apologized for my behavior when we were young. She didn’t remember it, really, and kindly shrugged it off as likely well deserved. 

In that exchange, with the opportunity to express my remorse and ask for forgiveness from my cousin, I was able to forgive myself. Without thought or effort, I never again picked my arms. Guilt had caused me to literally pick on myself. When I forgave my young self, the matter was finally over.

These posts on forgiveness have not met with enthusiastic responses. I don’t expect them to! Yet, I encourage you to glance over your life to see if there are actions for which you need to forgive yourself. Take the time to face them and then let them go in a way that gives you a sense of release and freedom!

Peace to you!

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