Earlier this year I wrote about forgiveness.
Forgiveness gets a lot of brain time in forgiveness circles. Many believe that before we can move forward, we need to forgive. That wasn’t the topic of my previous column.
I didn’t write about our need to forgive others. Quite the opposite. In my humble opinion we don’t have the duty or obligation to forgive others. That end of forgiveness only bogs us down.
If we are fretting about whether or not to forgive someone then we are ignoring our own need for growth — except in one critical circumstance that involves offering not only forgiveness, but grace, to the one person we often judge most harshly: ourselves.
I’ve struggled with this quite a bit in the last year. I think it’s probably natural when you walked beside someone during a terrible and fatal illness that left you still here and them not.
It’s probably natural; but it doesn’t feel that way.
It feels wrong and sad, but second guessing ourselves happens in numerous life situations: after a divorce, car accident, with addiction, failed relationship, job loss, death, and the list goes on.
It’s hard not to wonder if there might have been something — anything — more that you could have done to help, to advocate, to support, to change the outcome.
That, my friends, is a haunting thought to live with.
Many people live with similar thoughts, and I’m so sorry for that — in my own life and in the life of anyone who struggles with these feelings.
We are so hard on ourselves. And it shouldn’t be that way.
That’s where forgiveness comes in.
If you blame yourself for something in your past, the blame does nothing to right the wrong. It does nothing to help the situation that happened and is (quite honestly) in the past. There’s nothing any of us can do to change yesterday. Reliving it does nothing to change any circumstance. It most often only rubs salt in the wound.
It can be a harsh cycle: reliving and reviewing and wondering and wishing the outcome was different and blaming ourselves for something that has no blame.
Therein lies the truth in this whole conundrum.
We beat ourselves up for myriad things in life. For things beyond our control. For things we didn’t plan or never would have wanted. For things that just happened, despite our best intentions. We worry and we fret, and it’s time to stop.
It’s time to understand and acknowledge honestly that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. It’s time to forgive the one person who most needs our forgiveness, move forward and offer the unconditional love that he or she so desperately needs.
The first step in loving others and the world around you is loving yourself. And that often starts with forgiveness, for your shortcomings, for your past, for being human. Because none of us is without faults.
The sooner we see and acknowledge this in ourselves, the sooner we can see and acknowledge it in others.
And that, my friends, might just put us one step closer to the truth.
Be kind, especially to yourself. You deserve it. Today, and everyday.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.