There’s no doubt about it, forgiveness is a touchy topic and tough to put your finger on.
How do you know when you’ve truly forgiven someone, especially when the one you need to forgive is yourself?
And, that cliche “forgive and forget” is utter failure because it provides no solace. It also makes it seem like the ability to forgive and forget is easy. It’s not!
If you’ve ever had to forgive someone, you know what I mean. Just when you think you’re good, BAM! The most random thing reminds you that you’re not fully over it and you still have a little work to do to fully forgive.
The aftermath of my recent graduation helped me to see that I still had some residual work to do with forgiving myself. Really, what is it about achieving a major milestone that makes you look back over, nah more like, assess the entirety of your life?!
Especially, all the other milestones you’ve yet to accomplish.
Recently, I was sitting in my office attempting to organize my post graduate life stuff from my needed business paperwork, and BOOM!
I was hit with the reality that my life definitely did not go as planned.
Before I knew it, I was caught up in an unexpected emotional tug-of-war. A huge part of me was like, yes! You did it. You graduated! You have a master’s degree. Then this other part of me was like, no!!! –I didn’t ask for this?! This wasn’t a part of my plan. After I sat for several minutes teary eyed, I was reminded of two things.
One, how hard it was for me to accept God’s call in the first place, and two, I must continue to forgive myself for the things that did not go as planned.
It may sound strange, but giving up your plan or picture or better yet, when your plan or picture of how things should be doesn’t happen GRIEF comes with the loss, as well as anger and stress.
The sucky part about not forgiving yourself is you’re turning anger and stress toward yourself. There’s a great article on WebMD about how anger, stress and resentment towards oneself can cause or worsen diseases like cancer and heart disease. You can click here to read the full article.
“Many people get stuck for years on what didn’t go as planned.”
When I think back on my progression from anger to resentment to grief to depression and then the long road towards healing, I had to blog about the importance of self-forgiveness.
I know I need to remain mindful of the sensitivity self-forgiveness entails. However, if you and I don’t begin (or continue) to do the work to forgive self, it could turn into a love-hate relationship with God, which I know I don’t want.
Maybe you can relate to the author, C. S. Lewis, when he was grieving over the loss of his wife he wrote:
“Why is God so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?*”
Here’s how you can begin to forgive yourself when life doesn’t go as planned:
1. Receive this, it’s not personal.
Faith says, “The plan is bigger than you.”
Hear me out. I was madder than a pit bull that snaps when my plans and picture of my life felt like it was being stripped from me. I wanted what I wanted and I really didn’t think I was asking for too much, but divine intervention happens, even in the life of those who do not believe in the Divine.
I didn’t know much about God when God was divinely orchestrating my move to Philadelphia from Boston, and the collapse of my plans. You may be thinking, I’ve got things under control, but do you –really?
The dismantling of your plan, may have less to do with your competence and more to do with God’s providence.
Meditate on this: It’s not personal, it’s purposeful!
2. Understand this, love is blind.
A friend recently told me the great boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard said, “You won’t beat me twice!”
Basically, if you gave love your best shot and stuck it out through some ugly and trying times, don’t beat yourself up because it didn’t work out. Instead, celebrate your desire to love and be loved. You tried.
Now, like Sugar Ray Leonard, don’t be beat by the same thing(s) twice. Learn from the tough lessons. Get to the bottom of why you stayed in a relationship past its expiration date, not to burden yourself, but to make sure you don’t make a habit of accepting less than you deserve again.
Practice this: Write a note/letter to the person to leave the relationship in a loving place. Include your desires and wishes for the relationship, but include your hopes to have this in the future with the one who’s on the way. Lastly, include a written prayer of release for the relationship and for your heart, mind and soul to no longer be bound to the disappointment and loss. Put it in a blank envelope and throw it in a mailbox (you’re not really sending it to anyone) or if that’s too much for you, burn it.
The point is to release the pain, to give it to God.
3. Know this, remember and release.
As before mentioned, the cliche “forgive and forget” typically tucks the wound away, but doesn’t heal it. It’s important to recall what happened that caused you to feel embarrassed or shameful, which snowballed into you needing to forgive yourself for whatever happened. Now, I do not recommend doing this alone if there was serious trauma involved.
Do this: Look into bringing in a mediator (a counselor, therapist, group coaching) to help you remember the offense, so you can take the steps to release it. Most health plans cover mental health. I know you might be like –WHAT?! Don’t deny yourself healing.
In the end, being a victim can have a expiration date, if you dare to end the suffering.
4. Get this, you still have time.
You must free your mind to explore what’s new and what’s next.
I know we live in a very agist society, where youth is viewed as good and SENIORity is viewed as bad. I’ve found that life is truly about when you begin to LIVE and thrive, which can happen at different times in life. So, you didn’t do what you thought you would do by 29? Does it mean you have to somber your way through your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because of a missed forecast?
The weather gals and guys, I know meteorologists, get it wrong all the time and they still show up for work the next day. You have been given the gift of more breath to discover and do. How you use your breath of life is up to you?
Center this: That missed mark isn’t the total sum of your life. Ask God what’s new and what’s next for your life, and go for it, but don’t forget to forgive yourself on your way up.
Are you ready to forgive you? Do you think the points I provided are realistic? Please share what’s working for you or where you may be stuck, I’d love to hear from you and how I can help.
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*Melissa M. Kelly, Grief: Contemporary Theory and the Practice of Ministry (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 109.