I need to learn to forgive myself.
I am quite well schooled in the idea that “forgive and forget” is a ridiculous notion. How could one of the keys to forgiveness possibly be linked to forgetfulness? In my experience, memory is unreliable and forgetfulness cannot be counted on, especially in matters of morals and manners.
So what about forgiveness, and in particular, the forgiving of ones’ self? I have found it as hard (maybe harder) to forgive myself than to forgive anyone else.
One of the reasons must be that I am simply dumbfounded and embarrassed at my own raw humanness and weakness. Surely I’m better than this, I think. The fact is I simply cannot believe I am so adept at making mistakes, that I said such an incredibly hurtful thing, that I am capable of such misdeeds against people, again and again.
But, despite best efforts, humanity once again trumps spirituality and down I go, failing afresh. My incredulity over my own constant weakness and fallibility looms large and I find myself unable to forgive, myself. And it looks like I won’t be forgetting it any time soon either.
I can grow angry at my human weakness. I can’t seem to forgive it, so instead I nurse it, reliving my failures as I go from here to there. I have hurt my own pride – Surely I am better than this – and, as we all know, bruised egos heal slowly, if they heal at all.
C. S. Lewis addresses this idea, saying, “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
Is that what I’m doing, setting myself higher the Him? Is my own sin grander than those who came before me and were forgiven – King David and Saul of Tarsus and all the woman at all the wells? Do I dare to be open-palmed and gracious regarding forgiveness of myself?
My hubris dies a slow, painful death.
Let it go.
Theologian Frederick Buechner weighs in on this topic, “Despair has been called the unforgivable sin – not presumably because God refuses to forgive it but because it despairs of the possibility of being forgiven.”
Is this what I have done with the sacrifice of Christ – choosing despair at the possibility of being forgiven? Do I love my own frailty this much?
Let it go.
Poet Mary Oliver adds, “You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn't need any more of that sound.”
Maybe I don’t forgive myself because reliving my failures becomes an easier lifestyle and, ironically, nursing my pride and self-hatred gives me something to live for and talk about. If I relive my failures regularly, can I not also relive forgiveness regularly? Is this not what Christ died for?
Let it go.
I think learning to forgive oneself is godly practice in true self-care.