The human capacity to forgive even the deepest wrongs is awe-inspiring. People have forgiven others for the most heart breaking acts and betrayals of trust.
For many people, forgiving others is liberation from anger and grievance that leads to a richer and happier life. But there is an even deeper peace to be found through what might be the hardest act of all—forgiving ourselves.
The first part of any conflict we must resolve is not between you and others, but between you and yourself. So many people are walking around with some deep resentment and guilt against themselves. This is every bit as destructive as those we hold towards others. Every time we tune in to the inner dialogue that says we are not smart, thin, rich, successful, good, etc. enough or berate ourselves for what we did or didn’t do, we are choosing to live in blame and resentment—only it’s towards ourselves and not others. In the words of Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh, to truly practice forgiveness we must first forgive ourselves for not being perfect. Until we do so, it is going to be difficult to truly open to feel love and worthy enough to give and receive love.
In order for us to become less defensive, to be less sensitive to judgments of others, we must treat ourselves with love and compassion and not judge ourselves. When we are not judging ourselves we worry less about other people’s judgments. We must become understanding with our own selves. When we are nice to ourselves, we become nicer to others.
Forgiving ourselves is not a selfish way to let ourselves off the hook for behaving badly. Rather, it is the result of looking deeply within ourselves, accepting our mistakes and failures, taking responsibility for our actions, and loving ourselves in spite of it all. Forgiving is not about condoning bad behavior; it’s about taking responsibility for your own feelings and experiences and feeling empowered and strengthened from your experiences and not like a victim.
To be able to say, “I behaved (thoughtlessly, unkindly, foolishly, etc.) and I forgive myself for not being perfect” could be the biggest—and most healing—act of all. For when you can forgive the imperfection in yourself, it’s a lot easier to forgive them in others.
Self-forgiveness is a commitment to love yourself no matter what. Give yourself a break and remember that you are human, having human experiences to assist you to grow and learn on a Soul level.
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