Saturday, June 04, 2005

Forgiving ourselves

A friend of mine told me that recently he received a surprise e-mail message from someone he went to university with - a lady whom he had not heard from in over 20 years!

Then in the midst of confirming their identities and catching up, the lady proceeded to offer a profuse apology for something negative she did to him those many years ago.

My friend said that this was one of those moments where he was really grateful that he did not have a video camera on his computer - and people could not see his face as he read the e-mail - because his confused expression would have betrayed the fact that he had absolutely no recollection of what incident she could possibly be referring to!

In actuality, my friend said that this incident showed instead that he owe her a deep debt of gratitude, for their exchange raised up a series of amazing memories over the next few days.

When I think of such this incident I also begin to reflect on some of the things that have come and gone in my life. Sometimes these mental images made me chuckle; other times they made me cringe!

Dormant regrets that I didn't realize were still inside of me began to announce their presence - times when I'd said things that I shouldn't have or, more often, times when I should have spoken up, but didn't.

Many times our actions, even the ones that may have seemed insignificant or may have been forgotten, have effects on others.

Have you ever held onto a grudge for so long that it seems to eat away at you from the inside?

Have you held onto it as if it gave you a reason to live?

Have you allowed it to become a driving force in your life?

Has it been helpful or hurtful?

Before we can have new beginnings - real new beginnings, we must have made the effort to atone for the mistakes of the past. We simply cannot have one without the other.

If it is true that to be human is to err, then it stands to reason that in any given year we may have committed errors - some of which may still be eating at us - keeping us from becoming all that we are capable of being.

We may have inherent worth and dignity, but we aren't perfect.

We do miss the mark. We do violate others’ boundaries.

We commit acts of commission and omission which we later regret.

How, then, are we to be forgiven?

How, then are we to forgive ourselves?

And what are we to do with the resentments we carry with us when others miss the mark in their relations with us?

When they violate our boundaries?

When they commit acts of commission and omission which harm us?

What can we use to ignite the quick or slow fire of forgiveness within us to cleanse us of resentment?

Do we hold onto the past and let it consume us?

Do we take things from the past and bury them - never facing them again openly - only to have them haunt us again in years to come?

Within ourselves we need to have a time of honesty - of reconciliation - of atonement - of redemption.

We need a time for new beginnings - a time to be at one with ourselves and with others.

A time for setting things right.

Do we confront our mistakes and look at them for what they are: the sometimes well-intentioned stuff of being human that doesn’t feed us, but instead depletes us in subtle and insidious ways?

Do we address our mistakes in order to learn from them?

For us to honestly begin again, we must work to set things right - in many cases by first admitting our part in the wrongdoing.

It is far, far easier to look at the part that others have played in our lives, and fail to see that in our lives we are the people we must live with every single day.

We must find a day for us to examine our own motives, our own actions, and specifically, the part that we have played in our life situations.

It challenges us to forgive. Not an easy thought to swallow - this forgiveness!

It requires that we forgive not only the people who may have wronged us, but also those who we think have wronged us.

Above all, we need to forgive ourselves - for unless we are able to be at one and at peace with ourselves, how can we possibly do so with others?

At its simplest level, forgiveness is about saying, "I’m sorry."

It is about telling another person that we sincerely regret the pain that we have caused them.

It's hard work for us to put aside our regrets and move forward!

But won't we want to begin again and be a better person?

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