Forgive – it’s an easy word to say. It’s a much harder thing to do.
When we have been hurt, we want the person who hurt us to pay for that hurt. We are plagued by a sense of right and wrong, a feeling that justice needs to be done. Sometimes that’s possible. Sometimes not. However, what do we do after justice has been dealt whether it was a conversation that took place or an actual punishment? Do we forgive the person, or do we continue to carry the hurt with us? What if there was no justice? Do we blame ourselves?
Now, imagine that the person who hurt you was you? Did you punish yourself? Did you feel guilty about the punishment or the hurt? Did you forgive yourself, or are you continuing to carry the hurt and the guilt with you? Maybe you feel that your past is keeping you from your present or holding you back from your future.
I know that, for me, I have quite a bit of forgiving I need to do. Some of it is other people, but mostly I need to forgive myself. I need to let go of my past, so I can live in the present with a look toward the future. Here is the hard part: I have to actually forgive myself. I can’t just say the words and pretend to move on for a few days or weeks or months. I have to allow myself to move on. I need to quite holding the guilt I have about choices I made or didn’t make. I have to stop reliving those moments thinking “What if I had said this?” or “What if I had done that?”.
Most importantly, I have to let go of guilt over things that were out of my control. Did you read that? I’m going to say it again: I have to let go of guilt over things that were out of my control. Too often we blame ourselves for the actions and choices of others. We have to stop doing that. I have to stop doing that.
So, today, as part of my challenge, I had to set a date for when I was going to let go of the guilt over my past. I have to spend the time between now and then going through the process of self-forgiveness, the process of changing self-loathing into self-loving. It won’t be easy. I imagine I will cry my fair share (to be honest I cried a little today already). I have to recognize that the choices I made aren’t going to change no matter how much I blame myself or feel guilty. I have to let myself move on by letting go and choosing forgiveness a little bit every single day.
That is ultimately what we have to do, you see. We have to make a conscious choice to forgive whether we are forgiving ourselves or others. It’s not as easy as it sounds because we love to suffer, and we love to shift blame. Doing that, suffering and shifting blame, can only hold us back from the future we seek and rob us of the joy in our present.
How long does it take for this process of forgiveness to be complete? It’s different for everyone. What date did I choose? What date do I think is realistic for me to finally put my past behind me, to choose the present over the past? July 4th, Independence Day. While it might look like a short time from now, it will feel much longer to me because I have already started the process. I’ve given myself permission to like me: who I am and how I look. I have given myself permission to let go of those people who do not value me. I have given myself time everyday to pray and have faith.
I have given myself permission to forgive.