The Challenge of Self-Forgiveness

It seems that I can forgive (sometimes it may take a little while) everyone but myself.

Why is this so hard? The self recriminations, the self punishment, the rumination about how I could have done things differently, better, with more grace and kindness- these are relentless and punitive and toxic. And yet, it is as if I feel that I deserve the toxicity and punishment. To what end???

Yes, I can look back and see where I learned this as a child. I don’t want to stay stuck in blaming my parents, as they did the best that they could.. But, do I need to keep staying loyal to the lessons that they taught me about how to treat myself? When does the jury in my head finally stop condemning me to a life of impossible to reach standards and thus to a feeling of being a perpetual failure? When can I say ENOUGH? When can I let go and learn and be compassionate with myself for being flawed and human?

I have done some things recently that were less than kind. I said some things that came out of my fear, and did not even take the time to hear the other well, as I was too much in my fear. I feel awful about this. I tried to apologize (and the jury in my head says that I didn’t do that very well, either….). I didn’t mean to hurt this other person, but I did. And I regret that. I can’t take back the words that I wrote. And I have no further chance to try and talk about it, as the communication was stopped by this other person. I understand that, but it is a hard pill to swallow.

A pill that I feel that I deserve. But…..I now continue the punishment toward myself. And I am having trouble working my way through this, through the self flagellation and self rumination to get to the other side of this. So that I can learn, and try to do better next time with the next person, and move on and keep living. It is as if I am stuck in the no forgiveness zone. This feels like a version of hell……to live with punishment that has no end, to live with shame and guilt and remorse that has no place to vent and be released. To live with thoughts of what might have been if I had not acted so quickly out of fear……to face the loss of what my actions caused me.

This literally causes an ache in my gut, a tightness in my throat…..flooding of stress hormones that cannot be good for me. It is what they speak of when they talk about the toxicity of maintaining a high level of stress that doesn’t resolve so that your body, mind and spirit can work their way back to a calmer place.

I wonder how many of us do this to ourselves. I don’t think that I am unique in this. So….how to navigate this….how to allow self compassion and self forgiveness and learn the lessons and keep moving on. Keep living life. Keep working on doing better…..keep working on loving ourselves, flaws and all….that is the challenge.

I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I have begun to ask the question. I wanted to write about this pattern, to expose it…. as secrecy is the silent and powerful partner of shame. That is the first step, I think….to notice the patterns, to pay attention to what the voices in my head are saying to me, to notice the pain that this causes…..and to begin, with the help of my Higher Power/God/Universe ….to begin the slow journey back to self compassion…..self understanding….self forgiveness…..Even if someone else cannot forgive me, I can only apologize and try to learn and keep moving on, and work to not do this again. God knows, though, that I am so very human, and will continue to make mistakes….not out of evil intention, but out of my own insecurities and fears……But a lifetime of self punishment for all the ways that I am so much less than perfect….seems a very harsh sentence. I am horrified by torture….yet seem to allow this toward myself by myself…..And with this internal jury, each “transgression” allows them to bring up all other past mistakes and use them in the trial……This would never happen in a regular court of law, but there seem to be no such rules for this internal jury from hell….

And, in addition, maybe I can even look at the fears and what they may have been trying to tell me…..maybe they were protecting me from potential harm…..maybe they came from my gut, and although expressed less than gracefully, may have had some wisdom to teach me. Maybe there is also a lesson in this…..to notice the fears, ask what they are trying to tell me, where they are coming from, and what I may need to do to pay attention to them …..and do this with as much grace and kindness toward others and myself as possible.

But in the meantime, I think I need to address this internal jury in my head – to be the fair and just judge who deals fairly, but compassionately, with the human condition and all of its flaws and imperfections. Perhaps this jury needs to be instructed that self-forgiveness can actually be one of the verdicts. I don’t think that this has been offered as a possibility before- not toward myself, anyway. But maybe it’s time to offer that as an option. I’m not sure exactly how to do this, but at least it’s up for discussion.

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