Pain and wounds are a big part of being human. From a young age we experience the hurts that come from being closely connected within the human world. It doesn’t take long before our pure hearts are sliced by someone close to us, who loves us. It’s inevitable, because humans come with sharp edges.
An even bigger part of being human is learning the power of forgiveness. It’s a transcendent virtue to say to the person who stabbed your chest, intentionally or accidentally, “I choose to erase all wrong you’ve done toward me, and you will never have to pay for the damage you’ve done. I will keep no record of this.” It puts us in a class lightyears beyond the rest of creation. We are most like the Divine One when we forgive.
Except, what about when we are the one who stabs a person in the heart? How can I possibly forgive myself when I’m the monster who unleashes my wrath on one of my children? Or how can forgiveness be possible when I betray the person I promised to love until the day I die? How can I forgive myself without first punishing myself with severity?
Can I forgive myself without beating myself up first or without first making myself pay for the wrong I did? How can I possibly let myself be in good standing when I was the one who made that person bleed?
We hold ourselves to this standard of perfection, or at least a level of impossibility, and when we fall short of that standard we can hardly look ourselves in the eye because of all the shame. We want to know we are worthy of forgiveness, that we can erase all wrong we’ve done.
So, how do I forgive myself? Here are seven ways to practice forgiving yourself:
1. Know You Bring Great Delight to Love.
There’s more than just love coming from the Infinite. In addition to his Love for us, he takes great delight in us. Yes, that’s right, God delights in his people right where they are. Right in the middle of their messy mess. We somehow believe that he’s disappointed or frustrated with our humanity, but when we see that Love is smitten by our weak love for him, then it changes everything. It gives us the freedom to rest, and stop striving to be perfect for his approval.
2. Accept Yourself.
When it comes to self acceptance, the best place to start is in front of the mirror. Naked. Start with your hair and work down to your toes. Practice accepting every single part of your body, then move on to the inside. Fill your mind with acceptance, because Love has already accepted you and takes great delight in you and in all your imperfections, so it’s time that you do the same. This is a journey of self love, so practice it everyday. I even go as far as singing Bruno Mars, Just the Way You Are, to myself from myself. I must believe it within myself before anyone else can sing it to me, so go ahead and sing it to yourself until you believe you’re amazing, just the way you are.
3. Let Go of Expectations.
Perfect is overrated, and expectations are a set-up for failure. I’m not talking about the expectations of doing a good job or working at improving. I’m talking about the fantasy person that we all have in our heads. You know what I’m talking about. The expectation that a husband must be strong, caring and lead his family a certain way. Or the expectation that a Christian family must homeschool, eat dinner around the table every night, pray before bed and memorize scriptures. Or a good wife must be humble, submissive, and stay at home to care for her home and children.
Except, what do you do when you hate cooking dinner every night, you can’t keep up with the mountains of laundry, your children drive you crazy, and you want to punch your non-perfect husband in the face?
Suddenly, you find yourself sinking under the guilt of not meeting your expectations of what a wife, mother, and woman should be. My solution? Let that mess go. Who says you have to be a Martha Stewart Duggar Family clone? Be you. Let your husband be who he is and let your kids be who they are too. Wow. You just took a load off.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Let it Go.
You know you should let those expectations and failures go, now do it. Give yourself permission to let perfect go.
Let it go.
I’m serious, take a deep breath and let yourself be imperfect you.
5. Ask for Forgiveness.
Don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable to those you love. Ask your husband to forgive you for expecting him to be David Beckham and Jesus rolled into one. Ask your children to forgive you for screaming your head off all night at them. Tell them all that it’s not their fault that you screwed up. Watch those you love open up their arms and flood you with love and forgiveness.
6. Practice Forgiving Others with Wild Abandonment.
When you began to practice accepting yourself, and you began to see how much Love delights in you; when you practice letting go of all your unrealistic expectations, you find forgiving other people so much easier, because you no longer find your value in other people, so when they wrong you, or wound you, the cuts no longer define you or devastate you. Compassion for others grows in the shadow of self-love, thus making forgiveness natural and easy.
7. Practice Forgiving Yourself Everyday.
Just like compassion for others grows in the shadow of self-love, so does self compassion. You begin to see your value (and the value of others) in the brokenness. So, practice forgiving yourself everyday. Say it out loud, if you have to, and be specific what you’re forgiving yourself for.
Forgiveness is a process, a journey, not a one time event, so give this journey some time. Just like Jesus said, “Forgive seventy times seven”, it’s going to take time to truly forgive — that includes forgiving yourself.
Next week’s prompt is
Finding the Beauty in the Mundane