Being school holidays I have a teenager wanting to watch hours of Battlestar Galactica and I found myself having to explain why two characters had fallen into anger, bitterness and drunkenness after a really traumatic series of experiences. After causing harm and being hauled over the coals by the boss one character sorts herself out and gets on with finding a new way to live while the other character stays in his downward spiral because he can't forgive himself for his actions.
Trying to explain forgiveness of self is hard enough but to a teenager who sees things in black and white (what happened to the subtly of a pre-teen?) it is even harder. Yet it is giving yourself forgiveness seems to be one of the hardest things in life. Forgiveness doesn't have to be about forgetting. The saying "to forgive and forget" says AND. They are two different actions. Strangely we seem to think they are the same thing that needs to come packaged together. They are separate and take separate actions.
Finding self-forgiveness is a struggle for many of us, forgiving ourselves for our humanness, for our human failings, for our wrong or bad actions can be really hard. Maybe some of the lessons we need to learn to forgive ourselves is that we are human, we do err and we do need to learn that we are not perfect beings.
There are often many lessons to learn on the journey of forgiveness and they are personal and individual for each of us. For many the lesson of kindness is often there - to be as kind to ourselves as we would to a treasured loved one. We seem to be able to forgive the human failings of our loved ones more quickly than we do our own. Yet for us to love as well as we can we need to love ourselves as well as we love our dearest friends and family.
When our friends and family make a mistake (or series of them) we want what's best for them - to learn and grow from the experience, make amends as best they can and to forgive themselves so they can move on and make a better life. So what about this for ourselves? Our loved ones want what's best for us too, so their hope and love for us needs to be valuable to us.
Forgiveness lets us let go of hurt and harm, to let in more joy and happiness into our hearts. When we are living with hurt and harm we become blocked in life, we can't move forward, we create destruction rather than abundance and we hurt and punish not only ourselves but others in our lives.
We can not change what's happened, as frustrating and heartbreaking as that can be, we simply can not undo what's happened. All we can do is make the best of what's changed, learn the life lessons we need to so we can avoid making the same mistakes and live as good as life as we possibly can.
To move on from a situation often means learning how to live a different life. For those who have lost a loved one it is about learning to live with the grief, to forgive ourselves for the things we did or didn't do, to accept time will continue to rattle on - irrespective of what we do, to understand our loved ones would want us to live a full and happy life and to remember them. They would not want you, who they've loved, to squander life and let it pass on by. But, yes, it does mean learning to live this different life and if that includes forgiving yourself then that's a lesson that needs to be navigated.
So how do you forgive yourself? It's made up with acceptance of what's happened and your role in it and through acceptance comes recognition and understanding.
On the other side of forgiveness there's the light of day and the easing of pressure letting you live a better life for yourself and those who love you.
Forgiveness is a big gift, not just to yourself but to other's in your life who are being punished along side you when you're beating yourself up.
So be kind to yourself and find your path to forgiveness because you deserve it and can do it.
5 Ideas for Helping Yourself Find Forgiveness
Finding forgiveness can often start with a single light going off within yourself but often the process starts by choosing to let yourself to start moving. Here are 5 ideas to help you start:
1. Writing a journal about how you're feeling and what you're thinking can make a big difference as it helps get it out of your head and gives it some air. Writing out what happened - the what, who, when, why, where and how - is a practical step to help clarify the situation so you can start making better sense of it. Also writing about what you want to come from the situation realistically can let you define a destination that you can then move to.
2. Talking with someone like a counselor or therapist lets you have someone to give you skilled guidance through the darkness that is holding you too tightly. By talking through things you can ease the burden and find peace with what's happened.
3. Read other people's stories about how they have found forgiveness and what it has subsequently brought into life for them. From others we learn we're not alone, that people go through the same sort of experiences, we learn their skills and actions that have worked and haven't worked and why as well as getting to see that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.
4. Share with friends and family, community groups (online forums etc) what's happening so they know what's happening and have an opportunity to help. You'd be surprised how many people have gone through similar tough times and have come out of it the other side, the wiser, kinder and better.
5. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself like you would someone you deeply love and would do anything for. Remember that you are really treasured by good people and you need to be kind to yourself because you are worth it.