One of the practices for cultivating reverence for ourselves is the practice of cultivating self-forgiveness.
Do you suffer from feelings of harsh self-criticism? Do you have feelings of being unworthy? Do you ever cringe inside when you think back on mistakes you made or people you harmed? These experiences poison our self-reverence and fuel addiction, anxiety, and depression. They can induce a negative self-preoccupation that poisons our capacity to love. A lack of self-forgiveness also makes it more difficult to forgive others, as self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others are intertwined.
So how do we cultivate self-forgiveness?
First, understand that self-forgiveness is a process that takes time. It rarely happens all at once. You will need to engage in several practices to cultivate self-forgiveness.
Second, know that self-forgiveness is not something we do. Self-forgiveness is more something that happens when we create the conditions for self-forgiveness to arise.
So the way to cultivate self-forgiveness is to engage in several practices that then create the conditions for self-forgiveness to arise.
Let’s now talk about some of these practices.
I think the first and most important practice is the practice of humility. If you look closely, you will see that beneath your self-condemnation is the unconscious expectation that you should be perfect. We have a hidden grandiosity that fuels our self-condemnation. When you see this, let go of the need to be perfect. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, just nurture your authentic wish to be imperfectly decent.
The second practice is one of rigorous self-inquiry. What were the causes and conditions of your harmful behavior? See that you did not choose your genes, your personality, your parents, or your upbringing. See that you do not choose your thoughts, your beliefs, your feelings, or your impulses. While holding yourself accountable for your actions, see that there were powerful forces inducing you to act as you did. See that your harmful behavior was the result of a lack of clarity and skill. Seek to understand. As self-understanding deepens, self-compassion and self-forgiveness will arise.
The third practice is the practice of unconditional self-appreciation. Just as you practice an attitude of radical reverence for all things and all people, so you should practice an attitude of radical reverence for yourself. Just as all things and all people are sacred, so you too are sacred.
Finally, do better. Treat mistakes and harms done as opportunities for learning and growth. Live with an intention to learn and to love more skillfully. If you have harmed others, make amends and restitution if at all possible. Practice loving yourself and others. Live with integrity as best you can. The more loving you are, the more lovable you will feel. Your esteemable acts will cultivate your self-esteem and diminish the poison of regret.
Engage in these self-forgiveness practices daily to gradually diminish the poison of self-condemnation and enhance your self-reverence.
May your forgiveness of yourself and others bring you peace and enrich your life.