“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti
Self-forgiveness may be one of the most difficult tasks assigned to the human condition.
Letting go—it’s not for the faint of heart.
And yet, we are challenged at every turn of our life path to examine the relationship we have with ourselves.
Why is it easier to forgive someone else than to let go of our own mistakes?
I have to admit, my own journey towards self-forgiveness has been littered with failed attempts. Oh, I’ve had plenty to forgive others for, and somehow, that has always been fairly simple—but forgive myself?
My way of thinking has always been to not give power to those who hurt me. Therefore, I would make the choice to let go of my resentment and forgive in order to free myself from the angst of whatever abuses I had suffered at their hands.
It was a deliberate choice too—and apparently not so altruistic—this was about my own sanity. If the person who hurt me was to gain from my forgiving them, it would be a by-product of my compassion towards myself. Sound selfish? It sometimes has to be.
In all my sharing about how to move forward after any kind of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, I always say that the first step is to make a clear choice. It’s no different whether it’s about letting go of what someone did to you, or something you did to another.
So let’s just get to it—because we’ve made ourselves suffer for far too long.
“I who have never willfully pained another, have no business to pain myself.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
Step 1: Decide What You Want.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the most difficult relationship to nurture. We’re programmed to put others first. We should be taught from the very beginning about valuing our own worth. People who love themselves don’t start wars, because self-love breeds compassion for all beings.
Once you know how to be in a relationship with yourself, all the rest will be easy. Your stock is so high, you’d never sell it to anyone for a bargain price, or in turn, value anyone else unfairly.
The problem is, we are sometimes in an adversarial relationship with ourselves, and that makes it difficult to see that we are worthy of self-forgiveness.
The beginning of any journey toward self-forgiveness is to make a decision that yes, you are worth releasing from the prison of guilt, shame and pain, and you are going to actively participate in your own freedom.
It’s like wanting anything else—once you decide you can’t live without it, how you’re going to get it becomes a detail.
And guess what? You’re not really living when you can’t forgive yourself. It’s a trap so insidious that sometimes we barely know we’re in it. Everything seems fine, until you read the fine print on your soul.
Begin by taking out a fresh piece of paper, and writing down your decision to forgive yourself for whatever is weighing you down. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Notice all feelings of resistance. Breathe. You’ll still be you, only a more alive you, once you let go of this burden.
“I, (insert name here), choose to actively participate in my own freedom. I choose to forgive myself for (insert all sins here).”
That was the hardest part of the exercise. Who will you be without your pain? The person with no pain. It’s that simple. And a large part of why we don’t let go. This pain is familiar, and you understand yourself within this context.
You have just observed your ego struggling with its own identity.
Step 2: Self Disclosure.
“At the heart of intimacy, is self-disclosure” ~ John R. Buri
How often do we practice being intimate with ourselves?
Intimacy is a core principle of successful relationships. Part of this intimacy is facing our pain and being honest about it.
My worst offenses occurred with my children. Those hurt me the most because as a mother, I hurt when they hurt. Then there were other offenses, hurting other people either willingly or not, depending on my level of maturity and self-awareness at the time.
I’ve made a list of statements that have helped me wade through the mire and see things clearly…
I can’t do a damn thing about it. If I’ve done all the work I can do to make amends, then all that is left is to accept what is. All suffering arises from resisting this truth. I’ve done it, and it was wrong—I may or not have done it on purpose, either way it does not matter—it hurt someone, and now it just is what it is.
Self-flagellation is a form of drawing attention to my pain, not for the purpose of release, but to serve my pain-body. Why would I want to do this, if in my right mind? Well, I’m not in my right mind, to put it bluntly. The pain-body is a hungry beast, and it creates all kinds of scenarios as to why I might need to keep flogging myself.
One is, if I let go of this pain and forgive myself, I am arrogant and not showing compassion to the person I hurt. I call bullsh*t. This is serving no one. Since we are all One, the energy of not forgiving myself adversely affects the person I hurt in the first place. Why would I want to keep hurting them?
Or, the pain-body will tell me that I am being humble by not strutting around all self-forgiven—after all, remembering the pain may keep it from happening again. Truly, my dear pain-body? To be humble in the face of our own pain is to not use it as a crutch—for anything—like holding the person we hurt hostage with our pain. Because if they care about us, it will hurt them to see us unable to help ourselves.
The truth is, this keeps us from being fully alive. Emotional pain is limiting—and if I limit myself, I limit others. Again, if I insist on not forgiving myself for my own purposes, what right do I have to limit anyone else?
“The truth will set you free.” This quote never gets old—and my relationship with myself hangs on its poetic embrace.
Step 3: Release.
Once you’ve made the choice and faced your own demons—pain-body or that self-assigned right to nurse old wounds—there is nothing left to do but release for good.
But how can “release” be a step in how to release?
Easy—it’s not that easy! Sometimes we let go, but then go chasing after the damn thing again. Because to be honest, there is an emptiness where that pain used to be.
There is so much room now, and that room feels so strange, and we don’t know right away what to fill it with—we kind of miss our pain.
It was familiar. It was ours. It was something to chew on when we got soul hungry.
The only way to transmute that pain you caused is to let it go and leave it gone.
Only compassion and love can heal this thing.
If you need a ritual to release it, and you can give your pain to the wind. Write it all down, shred it, put it in your palm and release it on some windy day when it will be impossible to retrieve all those tiny pieces.
It’s a deliberate step towards self-healing. Self-forgiveness is self-healing. It’s letting a wound close. It’s being present to your life.
Want to change the world? Be present.
It’s hard to do that when we’re hurting.
I know that it hurts to let go—because you’ve let the skin grow over the nails that you’ve crucified yourself with.
It’s a choice—facing the brutal truth, and then releasing—that’s it.
When I tell myself that’s it three simple steps, it becomes three simple steps. If I say it will be complicated and almost impossible—then it will be. NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) reveals that what we say to ourselves becomes truth. The good news is, we have control over that.
Life is art—paint yourself free. Love the masterpiece that you are.
Author: Monika Carless
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/you me