Mind, Virtue

Forgive Yourself

“We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.”

William Shakespeare, 1613, Henry VIII

It’s an uncomfortable moment when you observe something you don’t like about yourself.

Even more uncomfortable when you have behaved badly, or when you realize you’re in the wrong. It’s uncomfortable because it opens this whole can of worms. You have to first confront your own negative qualities, which for most of us is like walking on broken glass-agonizing. Then you must look at the consequent damage your bad behaviour has caused-woefully awkward. And then you must hold all these harrowing realisations about yourself, which make you question every inch of your being, until they grow heavier and heavier, and you eventually sink below the waterline. And so, more often than not, we avoid all of the above.

The problem lies in our thought process in the wake of these realisations.

We judge ourselves most severely and it can start to feel like we’re no good at all. This punishing thought process makes it very daunting and difficult to face these realisations. Perhaps the following would be better- we accept the fact that we do hold negative traits, habits and thoughts. When they surface, we recognise them, strive to change, and deal with any damage we may have caused. And then as our final step, we forgive ourselves.

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.”

Frederick Buechner, 1970, The Alphabet of Grace

Forgiveness allows for development.

We know this in relationships. In order to move on and to grow you need to be able to forgive the other person when they make mistakes. It makes sense that the same applies to yourself. If we could forgive ourselves for our misdeeds and shortcomings, we would be a lot more likely to face them in the first place. We could exam them and therefore learn from them. It is, overall, the more productive way and aids self-development. If we are stuck in a loop of shame and self-loathing and constantly punishing ourselves, we’re definitely not moving forward. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s any honour in self-damnation because there’s not. The honour is in facing the truth, learning from it and striving forward.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen, 1992, Anthem
Leonardo da Vinci, La Scapigliata, 1506-1508
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