Forgive Yourself

I think the hardest thing for me is to forgive myself for the things that are not my fault- to forgive myself for being different, to forgive myself for not being able to make friends easily, to forgive myself for everything I want in life that I just can’t do right now.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves for the bad things that happened to us, for the things we wish we had control over or we wish we were stronger to be able to stop from happening. I have to forgive myself for being so lonely, for not making the friends I wanted, or for not reaching out or knowing how to talk to the friends I did have. I have to forgive myself for the times people took advantage of me or made fun of me or hurt me. I have to forgive myself for being me.

I have hated myself for my disabilities, for my mental illness, for my speech impediment. I hate myself the most for the things I have no control over.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we tear ourselves down for the things we cannot do?

If you were raped, you couldn’t have stopped it. If you were abused or bullied, you couldn’t have ended it sooner. If you have been lonely and friendless, you couldn’t have made friends any faster. Because if you could have done any of these things, you would have. No one likes to be hurt. No one wants to be lonely. No one wants to be an outcast or to feel like others don’t understand.

Forgive yourself for the things that are not your fault. Forgive yourself for the things you hate about yourself. Forgive yourself for everything that hurt you. Maybe then we can find the healing we need to love ourselves.

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Forgive Yourself

The most important person to forgive is yourself.

Forgiving is hard. It requires you to let go of the pain of regrets, of wishing that things had gone differently, of wanting to change the past. When we are hurt by someone else’s actions, it seems strange that we need to forgive ourselves. The truth is though, that any time there is pain or regret involved, we need to forgive ourselves.

Whether we did anything wrong, part of the process of forgiving someone else is forgiving ourselves. Forgive yourself for whatever it is that you tell yourself you did wrong. Whether it was trusting someone or allowing someone to take advantage of you or being too kind and friendly or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, forgive yourself for that.

Forgive yourself for any mistakes you feel may have led you to this place of hurt and pain. Forgive yourself for not knowing better or seeing the danger or doing something.

People say, “it’s not your fault” as though that somehow fixes things or makes it right. But the truth is, whether or not it was your fault, the only way to come to peace about it is by forgiving yourself for being hurt.

Forgiveness is not just for doing bad things. Forgiveness can be for doing good things that just went wrong. Forgiveness can be for doing nothing at all. Forgiveness is for the broken because it’s the only thing that makes us whole.

Over the past year, I have discovered the power of forgiveness. First, I was able to forgive some people that did terrible things to me. I was able to let go of the hate and be free of the anger. Then, eventually, I realized the need to forgive myself.

I forgave myself for helping someone, which had resulted in me being yelled at. I forgave myself for trying to fix a situation, only to have it end up getting worse. I forgave myself for all the times I didn’t have the right words to say or didn’t say anything at all, and it led to pain or misunderstanding. I forgave myself for allowing abuse to continue, even though there wasn’t always something I could have done about it. I forgave myself for not doing good things because I was afraid of getting hurt.  And ultimately, I forgave myself for being me, for being human, for having my faults and weaknesses. I forgave myself for not being perfect and not being able to perfectly prevent all the pain and anxiety and discomfort in my life.

I don’t know what it is that you have to forgive yourself for. It may be for doing something good. It may be for doing something not so good. It may be for doing nothing at all. It may simply be for being yourself.

Whatever it is, make the choice to forgive yourself. Make the choice to give yourself the love you don’t feel like you deserve. Life is too short to hate the person you spend all your time with. Love yourself, and that love will bring forgiveness.

My Story- Forgiveness

I could have named this my story of abuse or family or any number of things, but I decided to name it my story of forgiveness because it’s not about what happened to me, but how I changed because of it.

I had a pretty good home life. My parents loved me. In general, we were well taken care of and had everything we needed to live. But we fought a lot. My parents fought; my siblings fought. I generally did not fight and was considered the peacemaker of the house, which was sometimes a lot of pressure as a kid.

I also tended to not get in trouble. I remember my parents chasing after my sister with a shoe when she slammed the door to her room. I remember my dad telling my younger brother that it would be taken out of his blood when my brother had thrown a book across the room. I remember the fear of not wanting to be hurt and the pain of seeing my siblings punished.

I don’t want anyone to think my parents were severely abusive, that was just the parenting style they grew up with. In fact, the real abuse came from my father’s mother, my grandmother.

Up until about a year ago, I would avoid my grandmother as much as I could. I associated her presence with discomfort and pain. I don’t remember what age I was, but probably around 10, when the incident occurred that formed my most vivid memory of abuse.

I was at my grandparents’ house, probably helping them to paint or something. They wanted to feed me dinner. It was macaroni noodles covered in mayonnaise. I can’t eat mayonnaise, it makes me sick… But you don’t say no to grandma. So I had the great idea to flush my dinner down the toilet. Well, grandma found out what I was doing and took the noodles out of the toilet, rinsed them off and forced them down my throat. I still get sick just thinking about it.  I would rather be beaten than forced to eat something.

It has been hard to forgive that. It has been hard to associate my grandmother with anything other than hate and pain. Miraculously though, it happened this year. I stood there and hugged this woman who abused me, who I cringed at the sound of her voice, who I feared more than anyone in the world. I held her and softly assured her that things would be okay. I protected her; I loved her.

My story of abuse isn’t that bad. I didn’t get broken bones or physical scars. I did get emotional scars that stayed deep for many years, but I have forgiven. I don’t know how I forgave. It didn’t change how much she hurt me. It didn’t change that I don’t trust anyone alone with her. It didn’t change her. It just changed me.

I changed. I forgave my parents first, especially my dad. I forgave him all of his faults and the physical and emotional crimes I felt he committed against me and my mom and siblings. I forgave him because he is human. I forgave him because he needed it, and I needed it too.

Forgiving my grandmother was completely unexpected. I didn’t know it would happen. I didn’t know it could happen. But it has been freeing, incredibly freeing, to let go of that pain and that fear, and just be free.

Justice Doesn’t Make You Happy

This post goes with the last post I published. So even though I’d usually post this on my religious blog, I decided to post it on here as a follow up.

I believe in justice. In fact, I have an unhealthy belief in justice. I used to participate in what I called “karma driving,” which basically means I would treat other drivers the way they treated people. So if I saw someone tailing other people or cut someone off, I’d go out of my way to be a jerk to that person. I justified my behavior because “they deserved it.”

I’m not sure when I decided to stop, but I basically just realized that it wasn’t making me happy. I mean, I felt some satisfaction that the person “got what they deserved” but knew it didn’t really change anything. Me being a jerk wasn’t going to change how someone else drives. Yeah, they might be a little more careful for the next few minutes, but jerks will still be jerks no matter how many times it backfires.

I still secretly hope that the car speeding past everyone and cutting off cars will end up stuck behind a semi truck, but I no longer feel compelled to make them suffer.

See, I have finally realized that justice doesn’t make you happy. Getting what we deserve doesn’t make us happy, and giving people what they deserve doesn’t make us happy either. Mercy on the other hand, does make us happy. I think that’s God’s favorite part of being God. Extending mercy is so fun. It makes you feel joy. Christ taught that the person who is forgiven more loves more. Forgiveness breeds love. Justice breeds hate. That’s why forgiving is so powerful. Mercy and forgiveness are gateways to love and love leads to joy. I’m so grateful for forgiveness and I hope that I can find ways to be merciful because I definitely need more love in my heart.

One of my favorite scriptures states that perfect love casteth out fear. So my goal lately has been to try to love people perfectly and love God perfectly because I fear people, but I know through God love can cast out that fear. And by believing in mercy and loving more, I think I can become so much happier.