Making peace with the past is a practice, not an achievement. The same can be said for forgiveness. We forgive in bits and pieces; it isn’t a finite destination or a total resolution. It’s about recovering more quickly each time we have a triggering memory or experience.
So it’s important not to attempt to rush to forgiveness. We can’t gloss over it. That’s why we must air our grievances first. We have to walk through our anger before we can consider forgiveness. Remember that we can’t release what isn’t firmly in our grasp!
Many people try to talk themselves into forgiveness because they believe they “should” forgive. But forgiveness isn’t an intellectual exercise. It happens in the heart, which has to melt a bit to surrender to the experience of forgiving.
As my dear friend and mentor Debbie Ford shared in her book Spiritual Divorce, “Forgiveness is the essential component to freeing our hearts and liberating our souls. Forgiveness is the food that nourishes our bodies, our relationships, and our future. Forgiveness is the greatest act of courage because it breaks down the walls that we thought would protect us. Our resentments are like a steel cord wrapped around our past, forever binding us to those we see as our opponents. We must become willing to step through the constricting door of blame into the unbounded world of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the hallway between your past and your future. If you choose to hold on to your anger and resentments, you will continue living a life from your past. What you can always expect when you live a life from your past is more of the same. But if you dare to walk through the door of forgiveness, you will step into a new room and a new reality. You will create a life filled with love, compassion, and passion for living. You’ll be ready to create a future based on what you want instead of one created by what you don’t want.”
To truly forgive and let go of the past, we must first be willing to forgive ourselves. Self-forgiveness can feel strange to those of us who are used to judging ourselves, but when we withhold self-forgiveness, we withhold self-love and self-acceptance. We chastise ourselves for our humanness, as if we aren’t lovable unless we’re perfect. That leaves us at a deficit in our relationships and in life.
Self-forgiveness practice is a crucial step if we want fulfilling relationships and a fulfilling life. It usually requires even more of a regular practice than forgiving others because most of us are much harder on ourselves.
It’s easy to forget and fall into old habits of judging yourself. So when you catch yourself in self-judgment, try this: Take a deep breath, and say aloud or in your mind, “I give myself permission to forgive myself.” This may start out as an intellectual process, but as you allow yourself to forgive, your heart will begin to soften.
I also suggest becoming more aware of your inner critic. That negative voice is automatic for most of us, but as you notice it more and more, you can counteract it by taking that deep breath and giving yourself permission to forgive.
So, tell me: What will you give yourself permission to forgive yourself for today?