Have you ever made a mistake? Of course you have. We all have! If you were the only one affected by the mistake, you might just consider yourself foolish. If it caused harm or inconvenience to another person, you might choose to apologize. If someone caused you harm, you might decide to forgive them. In either situation, you need to make one last choice—to forgive yourself or not.
Women often talk about forgiveness as it relates to forgiving others, but forgiveness starts with ourselves first. Of all the prejudices and stubborn opinions we harbor, we save the most judgmental and condemning for ourselves. “I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve…I can’t get anything right…I’m no good. " Women are known to habitually say, “I’m sorry" as if they are responsible for every problem in the world. Even for the smallest infractions that shouldn’t warrant a second thought—like eating that piece of chocolate cake that wasn’t on the diet—we refuse to forgive ourselves, causing considerable damage to our self-worth.
If we’re not accustomed to forgiving ourselves, it’s difficult to forgive others. When my younger sister committed suicide in her early twenties, I imploded with guilt. I hated myself for not being able to prevent it, and I hated my sister for causing my family so much pain. Then I hated myself even more for hating her! The months following her death were filled with depression, anxiety and a depth of sadness so dark that I felt like I was living in a thick black cloud of smoke, smoldering in its putrid fumes. I finally decided to see a family counselor. After a couple of months, I was able to rise above the cloud of darkness, but only after I forgave my sister and myself for our mistakes. I learned that I couldn’t continue to blame myself for another person’s actions, and that forgiveness instantly lightens a heavy heart.
In an ABC News interview with Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton (who most women would agree had plenty of cause to be angry for eternity after the very public Monica Lewinsky scandal with her husband) said, “I reached the point where I decided that I was either going to have to forgive. . . . and let go of the anger and the disappointment that I had felt, or we weren’t going to have a marriage. . . . And both of us worked very, very hard to reach that point. . . . The counseling. . . led me to believe that this was a marriage and a love that I wanted to try to preserve if it could be. And I was willing to try. "
By holding on to hate and blame for the people who harm us, it may make us feel like the keepers of justice, but all we’re really doing is stoking the coals of a dangerous fire burning within us. A fire that quickly destroys any love or humanity we may have left. While justice and the law should prevail when someone commits a criminal act, the human heart still needs to heal when an infliction is made. Fire won’t heal it—love and forgiveness will.
Each experience you have in life is a lesson, especially those that are most damaging to you. You can’t predict or know what someone else’s lessons in life are, and therefore, you can’t judge them for what they might do—even if they hurt you. Once you forgive yourself and others, you can let go of the pain and the past.
5 Ways to Forgive & Forget:
Excerpted from the book: The Goddess of Happiness, A Down-to-Earth Guide for Heavenly Balance and Bliss
Debbie Gisonni, aka The Goddess of Happiness™, is an author (The Goddess of Happiness: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Heavenly Balance and Bliss and Vita’s Will: Real Life Lessons about Life Death & Moving On), speaker, happiness expert and columnist for iVillage.com. Contact: http://www.goddessofhappiness.com
Copyright, All Rights Reserved, Debbie Gisonni