Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately.
Certainly, forgiveness is something we have to revisit again and again with the people in our lives – for the ways they let us down, for the times they hurt us, for the little ways their words or inaction cut into our hearts and souls.
But, more importantly, I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate forgiveness for myself.
It’s something I struggle with constantly.
How can I forgive myself for the ways I’ve hurt someone I love or fallen short? For the times I’ve broken my own heart? For the failures and broken promises?
I’ve beaten myself up so many times for so many years, how do I begin to forgive that? But even more than that, I’ve silenced my own truth, put someone else’s needs before my own, and abandoned myself over and over again.
It’s a deep wound that I keep reopening each time I tell myself my feelings aren’t valid or worthy of attention. It’s difficult to forgive when everything feels so raw and tender, isn’t it?
Sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve hurt myself until long after the damage has been done – because it’s easier to focus on the people I love and what they need. It’s simpler sometimes to ignore the stuff that’s scary or uncomfortable like taking up space, putting my foot down, or using my voice.
But then, when I feel resentment or heartbreak, it’s so natural to turn on myself.
So, why is forgiveness so important?
Forgiveness is a cornerstone of trust. If I can’t forgive myself, how can I find a way to believe my own wisdom and trust my voice?
Brene Brown has a new course on trust over at CourageWorks.com. In it, she breaks trust down into seven smaller components like respecting boundaries, repeatedly showing up, integrity, non-judgment, and assuming generous intentions.
As I watched the videos, it struck me that forgiveness, trust, and empathy are ultimately about connection.
When we forgive…
…we can turn towards ourselves and towards the people we love.
…we can build bridges. We can connect across even the deepest chasms.
…we can find the grace to treat ourselves and our loved ones with kindness even after being wounded.
Forgiveness does not undo what has been done, but it does mean letting go to make space for something new.
What are you clinging to that you can begin to let go of?
Where are you holding on to something that just keeps hurting you over and over again, and if you invited some forgiveness you might find a little more ease and movement?
A better question may be, do you trust yourself? Do you trust your decisions, your ability to set boundaries, your inner worthiness?
If the answer is no, or not entirely, find the spots where you feel like you keep letting yourself down. That’s where forgiveness may be a beautiful way to heal and move forward.
But don’t be fooled by how simple it may seem to forgive someone, especially yourself.
Forgiveness is not a one-time magic pill. You don’t waive your forgiveness wand and suddenly find everything is behind you.
In my experience, forgiveness takes practice. It is an on-going choice, and sometimes you fumble it and lose that spaciousness. But it is always there, waiting for you to pick it back up and gently nurture.
Sometimes it hurts to move into forgiveness because it means examining and admitting the wounds you carry.
When I think of all the ways I’ve held back or silenced myself, it can feel devastating. All those times I decided someone else’s happiness was more valuable than my own…toes hanging over the ledge of that deep, dark abyss that is all of the ways I didn’t listen to my own heart.
But I can only start building the bridge of that forgiveness by understanding where I am and where I’d like to go.
Forgiveness takes practice. Trust takes time. And you can only find your way to love and joy by doing the work and showing up, over and over again, even on the tough days.
Forgiveness isn’t linear. Neither are healing, love, or growth. There is beauty in the chaos that is our stumbles, fumbles, and falls.
As we move towards a new year, I invite you to find ways to begin forgiving yourself.
When you forgive yourself, you can begin to trust yourself. By trusting yourself, you can start to set boundaries, ask for what you need, grow into deeper love with yourself and the people around you, and then that’s when the really juicy stuff starts to unfold.
No matter how many times you’ve been vulnerable and courageous, no matter how many ways you’ve failed, you must find a way to forgive.
Stop clinging to old beliefs and wounds that weigh you down and keep you trapped in the dark. Open to the possibility that at any given moment you are doing the very damn best that you can with what was available to you in that moment, and that makes you pretty damn amazing.
Open to the truth that you deserve to forgive yourself, and let yourself see all of the space that creates in your thoughts and feelings.
Breathe into your healing. You deserve this.
And so do I. Even if it’s hard to believe sometimes.
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