Have You Forgiven Yourself?
When it comes to the trauma you have endured, have you forgiven yourself?
For what you did not know. For what you could not predict. For how you responded in a time of struggle. If you are having difficulty letting go of the resentment and pain associated with your experience, you are also struggling to forgive. When we are completely transparent about our feelings, we often have not forgiven ourselves. There are millions of resources out there to coach us on forgiving others. However, when we don’t take the time to check in about how much responsibility we are carrying for trauma committed against us, this act can create resentment. Failing to acknowledge and release our self-hatred (yes, I said hatred!) causes us to miss a life-changing opportunity to reclaim our power and heal. The choice to forgive ourselves is wrapped in self-acceptance and self-love...two things that are a struggle for many of us.
Being the bigger person has been a torch forced on women of color for generations. Some years back, I overheard the following quote, “We are at least 50% responsible for everything that happens to us”. This has stuck with me throughout the years. It’s a statement that I struggled with accepting in some instances and had epiphanies about in others. There is power in taking responsibility for the path our lives have taken, but what about the severe trauma? Nobody is responsible for sexual abuse or assault. Nobody deserves the pain that accompanies an unexpected death, crippling illness or the sting of heartbreak. Perhaps the responsibility we SHOULD take on is rooted in our inability to forgive ourselves. This courageous act of self-love is often confused with tolerance. Forgiving those associated with our trauma and/or ourselves is not a sign of weakness, a belief that we created our reality or tolerance towards damaging behavior. It may take years to forgive the transgressions of others which is perfectly normal. The purpose of forgiving ourselves is about releasing unwarranted responsibility and residual emotional attachment to an incident(s).
We don’t know what we don’t know. The mistake of blaming ourselves for malicious and traumatic events in our lives leaves no room for self-compassion. Recognizing that we can absolve ourselves of what we didn’t understand at a time of vulnerability makes it easier to forgive ourselves. Acknowledging that we don’t/didn’t know everything allows us the freedom of imperfection. Releasing this constant need for perfection allows us to take on the appropriate level of culpability for events in our lives. Here are some tips to start the self-forgiveness process:
Ivan Leal Martins
(Click the link for exercises & additional tips)
Accept the Unacceptable
Learn Your Lesson
In our last blog post, Knowing Our Triggers Isn’t Enough, I said towards the end that we are not responsible for our trauma, but we are responsible for our healing. Unfortunately, this is not a clear cut process with a manual or money back success guarantee. One thing for sure is in order to move forward, we have to learn to forgive ourselves first. This act of self-love has the power to heal if we give ourselves permission to let go. Even if we have no clue what healing should entail, forgiving ourselves is a great start in any journey to wholeness. Take some time to consider what you are holding on to and how to be compassionate in your path to healing. Have a joyful and productive week!