Many of us lack a sense of peace due to a lack of self-forgiveness.
Lack of self-forgiveness can haunt us. Do you cringe when memories surface of mistakes you have made and people you have harmed? It is painful. It brings on feelings of both guilt and shame that can lead right back to addicting or depression.
We know we should forgive ourselves, yet feelings of being fundamentally flawed and unworthy often persist even though we know we “shouldn’t” feel this way.
If we look closely, we see a hidden grandiosity blended with self-hatred. We feel we should be perfect. I think many of us struggle with this mix of self-hatred and grandiosity, especially if we are survivors of trauma and/or neglect.
It is a difficult tangle to sort out. We know we should have compassion for ourselves. Yet both guilt and shame can seem so natural.
So how do we forgive ourselves? How do we achieve some sense of internal peace?
First, I don’t think self-forgiveness is a one-time event. It is an ongoing practice.
But what do we practice? Here is what works:
Practice humility. We are broken, crooked, and flawed, just like most others. We have good intentions along with selfish intentions, just like others. Recognize our common humanity. Let go of the grandiose need to be perfect, holy, or superior. Better to just nurture an authentic wish to be decent.
Practice self-understanding. See that our selfish, hurtful, and addictive behaviors stem from pain. If you are a survivor, see that our experience of neglect and abuse can condition us to be neglectful and abusive. See that we suffered emotional brain damage. Also see that we have a dark side not of our choosing, which is selfish and self-centered. See your fear-based and power-concerned ego.
While we hold ourselves accountable for our unskillful behavior, see that there were egoic forces at play that we did not fully understand. See that we are all products of our conditioning. We do not choose our thoughts, feelings, and impulses, so we should not take our minds personally.
With understanding of our suffering and conditioning, self-compassion arises, as understanding breeds compassion.
Seeing is freeing, because with awareness, we gradually develop the capacity to choose another way, which brings us to the third life practice.
Practice Love. Choose love. Intentions matter. Set an intention each day to love yourself and others in all you say and do. Remind yourself of your sacred nature and see the sacredness in all things and all people. When self-hatred arises, greet it with kindness. Let love be your moment-by-moment touchstone to guide all your actions. As you put out love, the Universe will generously resonate with you. You will find yourself immersed in an abundance of love.
Part of the practice of love includes making amends and restitution for the harm you have caused. Make amends wherever possible. Make up for damage done wherever possible.
Repeatedly setting an intention to love yourself and others gradually shapes behavior. As we become more loving in our behavior, we feel more harmoniously a part of the greater life. This enhances our sense of our innate goodness and worth. Loving cultivates the conditions for self-forgiveness to arise.
Change requires practice. Change requires a gentle, daily effort. Give these three practices time. With patience and persistence, these practices will gradually dissolve your self-hatred, and you will find peace at last.
Image from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgiving-life/201707/the-cure-self-loathing-self-forgiveness.
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