The past few weeks, I have been reflecting quite a bit on forgiveness. In part, this came about because of a film we watched a few months ago called The Power of Forgiveness. One of the women in the film, Alexandra Asseily said in the film, “I think that if we all just remember that if we forgive ourselves, it’s a wonderful beginning to forgiveness. Because actually, if we really forgive ourselves for all the wickedness we think we have inside or all the things we think are wrong with ourselves, we would then be so much more compassionate with others. And I think probably it’s our lack of compassion with ourselves that makes us so upset with others.”
Forgiving ourselves is an opportunity to break the emotional ties to the pain and set ourselves free. It is an opportunity to release the pain, anger, and other emotions that have built up within us over time. As we release this pain, we are able to move from a space where the past shapes our present to a space where we are experiencing the fullness of the present. Forgiveness is not about forgetting the events, which harmed us, but releasing the emotion attached to the memory so we can heal and evolve in our lives.
Forgiveness is not always instantaneous. It is, in some respects, like losing weight. Some of us have more weight to lose than others do and it will be released over time. Over time, however, if we are intentional about releasing the emotion, we will learn how to live more fully in the present. Some of us have been carrying this emotional and mental weight with us for quite some time, so learning how to live without that pain and negative energy is a time of transition and a time to develop a new way of being and living in the world. Self-forgiveness is not always easy, but the option is to live continuously with the pain.
Perhaps one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had about forgiveness, was a few years ago when someone asked me to provide him with a cost benefit analysis of forgiveness. He wanted to know what it would cost him and how it would benefit him. While I had never been asked to talk about forgiveness in that manner, I found it easy to do. The costs, I explained to him, was that when we fail to forgive ourselves, we stay entrenched in the hurt and unresolved pain, and continue to behave in ways that contribute to harm and suffering. Often time, this negative energy erodes our sense of self-esteem and self-worth. It can also affect our relationships as we become defensive or distant. Sometimes the inability to forgive ourselves can make us physically ill and can at times become self-destructive.
On the other hand, when we learn how to forgive ourselves, we learn stop beating ourselves up for past mistakes. We lay the whip down and begin loving ourselves in healthy and nurturing ways. We celebrate the fact that we are human and we do make mistakes. We own then, acknowledge them, release them, and then celebrate our emancipation from the pain.
Forgiving ourselves can have many benefits. We realize we are greater than our own evaluation of our self and we are of value and worthy of being loved in a positive and respectful way.
The power to forgive one’s self lies within each of us. We each have the power to forgive ourselves and to live more fully in the present, healed, whole, and open to spiritual growth and evolution.