When the person you most need to forgive is yourself.

Have you seen the program Hoarders on A&E? It's a fascinating social experiment examining out-of-control hoarding and collecting behaviors. It's also the only show that simultaneously makes me want to clean my house and take a shower while mowing my lawn and emptying out my closet. While most of the behavior highlighted on the show repels me, I cannot deny that there's an aspect I can relate to. Because, you see, I too am a hoarder. Except I hoard blogs. Blogs of all sorts - mommy blogs, fashion blogs, home decor blogs, foodie blogs, craft blogs, psychology blogs. They clog my Google reader and send me notifications when I'm away for too long and make me want to learn to decorate and craft and generally be a more well-rounded person.

One of the blogs I subscribe to is through Psych Central. While catching up on posts, I came across this quote by Lily Tomlin:

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

When I first read this quote, I immediately thought about the people in my life I’ve had the most difficulty forgiving – friends that have betrayed me, family members who stole from me, work colleagues who tried to sabotage my accomplishments. However, after a while I realized that the person I most needed to forgive was myself.

Forgiveness is defined by Wikipedia as "the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution." The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'. The offense that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can help you focus on more positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. I should note that forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act.

However, your heart and mental health may depend on your ability to reduce hurt and anger, even at yourself. According to Sharon A. Hartman, MSW, a chronic state of anger and resentment interferes with life. Countless studies also show stress and anger can cause or worsen diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and various autoimmune disorders. "When resentment is interfering with your life, it's time to forgive yourself," Ms. Hartman says. "So many people have a constant, critical voice in their heads narrating their every move. No one can beat us up better than we beat ourselves up."

Like most people, I carry around the guilt of a million mistakes I’ve made. I’ve done things – intended or not – that have hurt others. I’ve screwed up. I’ve also treated myself in a less-than-nice way though negative self-talk and the destructive behaviors of my eating disorder. Sometimes I wonder how much I could have accomplished if I hadn't wasted so much time and energy obsessing about my weight. Sometimes I replay a particularly cutting conversation I had with my husband. Sometimes I ruminate over an argument I had with a friend. In all of these cases, I struggle with forgiving myself for my failures.

We live in a world of high performance standards, where perfection is often touted as a very real possibility. So it’s no wonder that it’s so difficult for us to forgive ourselves. But ultimately, forgiveness means accepting the past, understanding that we can do nothing to change it, and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes.

Does Lily Tomlin's quote resonate with you? Do you battle with forgiveness? Do you feel the desire to forgive yourself of something? Why do you believe forgiveness is such a struggle?


7 comments:

  1. In my opinion, it is much easier living a life when a person doesn't think everything must happen the way this person imagined. People can act differently, things can end up in a different way- and it shouldn't be qualified as a bed thing. As soon as we admit we can't control everything- people we love, situations around us, our whole life- it will be much easier to accept the world where things happen in a way we didn't plan.
    Some unplanned situations showed me how I act( and I didn't ever expect I would act so). If I can surpise myself with such things, I must have the same undestanding for someone else's unexpected behavior, too. So, yes, I have dealt with my issues, and try not to have things to forgive to myself. And, as older I get,to others as well.

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  2. Love the quote!! Truer words have never been spoken. I learned a long time ago to let go of the past, ruminating over it does nothing but hurt you. As for forgiving myself thanks to a butt ton of medication I can do exactly that. Nothing makes self flagellation obscene than a mood disorder.

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  3. There used to be a time when I held grudges. I was incapable of forgiving anyone for a mistake or transgression, including myself. Because of this I was unhappy and often spent a lot of time angry. One day I woke up and decided to just let it all go. To forgive everyone, including myself. Since then I have been a much happier individual, and have encouraged others I care about to do the same. It isn't easy, but by learning to forgive (but not necessarily forget), you will be a much stronger and better person.

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  4. You are such an uplifting writer who has an amazing way of making people think. I too know the feeling of carrying around gulit. It doesn't matter how long ago the senerio happened it one day pops into my head again, and I end up feeling just as bad as when it first happened. It's so much easier for me to forgive others than it is for me to forgive myself. I think most of us have a problem with this because like you said, we're always feeling compelled to acomplish perfection. In the past few years I've been attempting to be less hard on myself and forgive myself more, but I feel like my struggle for perfection grows even more. It's almost like a never ending battle!
    XoXo
    -Amanda Machell
    http://pristinemachine.blogspot.com

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  5. Forgiving myself has been on my mind all week! Thank you for your post.

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  6. Forgiveness is so hard. And it is always harder to forgive yourself. A friend did my numerology and she said that in order to have a beautiful peaceful life I must practice patience, perseverance and forgiveness. Everyday I'm working towards it so that I can leave the past where it belongs. I love how you bring different things into your post and the flow of your topics...

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  7. Wow... that's an amazing quote and this is an incredible post. I hold grudges against myself for ages! It's time to let go...

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