Over a year ago my grandmother passed away. Lots of conversations and emails went back and forth between my aunt and my brother that were at times, unpleasant. There is a bit more background to this story, but for purposes of GreyFeathers, I’ve shortened it.
My aunt has completely cut me out of her life, my brother, and pretty much my sister. I asked her repeatedly what I had done, so that we could talk about it, clear the air, and move on. But other than saying that I lied to her (not telling me what it was she thought I had lied about), she said she didn’t want to discuss it any further. And that was that. It has been 18 months without communication. It hurts not having her in my life.
I am still trying to reconcile what I said that upset her. But at the same time, I have to forgive myself – not for what I might’ve said, but for hurting her feelings.
So, I ask you, how does one go about forgiving oneself? I think it could possibly take a lifetime for some of us. As women, the majority of us are harder on ourselves than anyone else.
How many times have you gone over in your head something you said or did, that in hindsight you wish you hadn’t said or done? You beat yourself up over and over again replaying the situation in your mind. Maybe you have regret of your actions? Maybe you wished you had kept your mouth shut? But no matter the case, you haven’t forgiven yourself.
I am positive the person you wronged has already forgiven you. In fact, I bet half of the things we think are bad behavior on our part, hadn’t even registered as bad in the other person’s mind. Sometimes we think our words and our actions are worse than they really are. If they are your loved one or friend – I know in time they will forgive you – or they should.
But what if they don’t forgive you, after sincerely apologizing. We should remind ourselves that we are HUMAN, and humans make mistakes all the time every day (hopefully not the same ones!). Do you feel that if you are not forgiven, you don’t deserve to forgive yourself?
Admitting You are Human
Psychology Today author, Dr. Matt James, writes “In order to forgive ourselves, we first have to admit to ourselves that we blew it. We have to take ownership and acknowledge the flaw or mistake—and that feels almost counter to our sense of survival!
“It’s helpful to remember that mistakes, failures and even incredibly stupid acts are part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow. If you’re never embarrassed or wrong and if you never make a mistake, you’re probably staying within a pretty narrow comfort zone. Appreciate your missteps for what they are: a stepping stone on your path.”
I think we can all admit when we’ve done something wrong, but is it possible we embrace our faux pas as a stepping stone on our journey?
Michael Davidson of TinyBuddha.com writes that talking to someone may be beneficial — “Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. Talking to someone else about what is bothering you can have serious benefits.”
“Another perspective. When you are upset at yourself, emotions can cloud your reasoning abilities. (He’s read my mind). A friend will often point out a reason why you deserve to forgive yourself that you never would have seen. Social support. You always feel better when somebody else has your back. Knowing that other people are less critical of you than you are of yourself can be encouraging.”
The God Factor
If the above isn’t cutting it for you, maybe a walk with God might help. I found an interesting tidbit from biblestudytools.com where Leslie Vernick writes, “Before someone can experientially accept God’s grace, she must emotionally (not merely intellectually) accept who she is.”
By this age, I think we have come to realize that we are not perfect, yes? And we make countless mistakes, yes?
She continues, “There is only one God, and she is not him. She is a creature: one who is called both saint and sinner, beautiful and broken. Humility is the only path that will give her the internal freedom she craves because once she is humble—Jesus called it ‘poor in spirit’—she’ll be in a position to emotionally accept who she is—a fallible, imperfect, sinful creature who doesn’t know it all. Then, she will no longer be so shocked, shamed, or disappointed when she sees her darker, sinful, weaker side.
It’s not her sins and failures that cause her greatest emotional pain. Rather, it is her unrealistic expectations of herself and her lack of acceptance when she messes up.” Unrealistic expectations of ourselves. I never thought about it like that. I think Leslie Vernick is on to something… “In a backwards way, her pride has been wounded. She is disappointed that she isn’t better than she is.” Oh my gosh, I love this woman. “But the truth is, she’s not. In embracing that truth, she is also set free to embrace and experience the beauty of grace.”
It’s a Choice
Why can we forgive others who have “done wrong” yet we can’t forgive ourselves? Allaboutgod.com writes something I never thought of in the way they describe making the choice to forgive yourself.
“If you do not forgive yourself of past sins, it is a form of pride. Whenever we enact a different set of rules, a higher set of standards for ourself over others, that is pride. When we can find it within ourself to forgive others, but not ourselves, we are saying that we are less capable of making a poor decision than others. We are somehow more intuitive, wiser, more insightful, more careful than others, and therefore, we are without excuse and should not forgive ourselves. When we reject the forgiveness extended to us by God and others, when we refuse to forgive ourselves, what we are doing is setting ourselves above others and that is pride!”
In the End
Maybe one day my aunt will pick up the phone or send me a text or write a note saying that she finally wants to talk and clear the air. I hope by that time, not many years will have passed because that would be less years we would have together. Time is of the essence. We are all works in progress and for me, I have to let go of whatever I said that hurt her feelings because I am just a human girl, doing what humans do… making mistakes.
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