Forgiveness is one of the powerful modalities we have regarding our spiritual and emotional healing. I have always found it easy to forgive those who hurt or offended me yet I am not as generous with forgiving myself. Professionally speaking, this is one of the topics I lecture on that I am most passionate about. I know I've enabled thousands of people to find peace in their hearts through the sharing of my knowledge and my own life experiences. In recent years, my spiritual journey has lead me to the understanding that forgiveness becomes obsolete with the awareness of two factors: first, when we recognize that every choice, every life experience, and every mistake is an essential part of our spiritual journey. What is essential for our growth does not require forgiveness. Secondly, the ability to view others through the eyes of compassion rather than judgment prevents the onset of anger or disdain, both of which require the forgiving process to heal from and move beyond.
While learning to forgive others can be challenging for many, forgiving one's self can present an even greater obstacle. Why is it so difficult for some people to extend the same compassion and understanding to one's self as they do for others?
Here are six possible reasons:
• While we may be understanding and compassionate of others for their perceived imperfections and mistakes, we often hold ourselves to a higher standard. "You did the best you could at that time", "You didn't know any better" are common responses to those who have committed a wrongdoing. Yet we put greater pressure on ourselves believing that I could/should have tried harder; I should have known then what I know now. While it is permissible for others to be weak or imperfect at times, I expect myself to be smarter, kinder, more fair, and courageous than what I displayed at that time.
• It can be hard to forgive ourselves if others refuse to put the past behind us. They continually remind us of how badly we hurt someone or of how selfish our behavior was. Still others try to impose guilt and shame for the poor choices we made. "Your gambling problem completely bankrupt us - we have nothing left for our retirement! This is all your fault!" One cannot move forward into reconciliation when trapped in past events. However, sometimes it is not the other party but ourselves who keep reliving the sins of our past.
• How often are we compared to others? "Your brother always been here for me since my diagnosis with MS. Now that I'm dying you come to visit me? Where were you all the years I needed help?" Typically comparisons are intended to hurt us, to point out flaws and so-called poor judgments. They keep us trapped in feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. If one does not see themselves as valuable, how can they receive the gifts of mercy and compassion?
• There may also be a concern that if I forgive myself I am diminishing the serious nature of my offense. Am I in essence suggesting that the other party just suck it up, that it wasn't as bad as they claim it to be, that they are not the only one who have ever been hurt in life? It can be misconstrued that I'm giving myself a free pass to repeat the same offense or another.
• It may be easier to forgive myself for the poor judgments or indiscretions that only impacted my own life. However, if my actions caused pain and suffering for another, how can I possibly excuse myself for involving someone who was completely without fault? They may have put the incident behind them but for me the remorse of unintended consequences imposed on one who was not deserving of such is a heavy burden to carry.
• Have I lowered my standards, abandoned my values, betrayed those who believed in me? Am I stuck in grief or remorse? Is the other party still suffering from my mistakes? Am I not worthy of forgiveness? If I irresponsibly caused a car accident due to driving while intoxicated causing an innocent passenger of the other vehicle to suffer traumatic brain injury they will never recover from, what right do I have to heal my anguish and resume my life of happiness and success? As long as they continue to suffer, is it not only fair that I do so as well? This should be my penance for the remainder of my life.
In each of these scenarios, we have a different set of criteria for forgiving others vs ourselves. Forgiveness is a universal gift afforded to each of us without stipulation. Jesus instructs us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." As yourself: one cannot love and judge simultaneously. We are commanded to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. After all, if God can forgives us who are we not to extend the same mercy to ourselves?
Keep in mind that our God is a forgiving God who did not create us to suffer. The same gifts He bestows on others He blesses you with as well. So be kind and compassionate with yourself. Learn the lessons, make amends, let go, and love again. Be at peace for that is what our loving Father has intended for each of us. And without self-forgiveness there can be no inner peace.
Jeremiah: I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.
Please check out my very powerful 3 minute video on the healing power of forgiveness at www.FromGodWithLove.net.
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Janet Pfeiffer, international inspirational speaker and award-winning author has appeared on CNN, Lifetime, ABC News, The 700 Club, NBC News, Fox News, The Harvest Show, Celebration, TruTV and many others. She’s been a guest on over 100 top radio shows (including Fox News Radio), is a contributor to Ebru Today TV and hosts her own radio show, Anger 911, on www.Anger911.net and Between You and God (iHeartRadio.com).
Janet's spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University, was a keynote speaker for the YWCA National Week Without Violence Campaign, and is a past board member for the World Addiction Foundation.
She's a former columnist for the Daily Record and contributing writer to Woman’s World Magazine, Living Solo, Prime Woman Magazine, and N.J. Family. Her name has appeared in print more than 100 million times, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Alaska Business Monthly and more than 50 other publications.
A consultant to corporations including AT&T, U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, and Hoffman-LaRoche, Janet is N.J. State certified in domestic violence, an instructor at a battered women's shelter, and founder of The Antidote to Anger Group. She specializes in healing anger and conflict and creating inner peace and writes a weekly blog and bi-monthly newsletter.
Janet has authored 8 books, including the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger (endorsed by NY Times bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel).
Read what Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author, says of Janet's latest book, The Great Truth; Shattering Life's Most Insidious Lies That Sabotage Your Happiness Along With the Revelation of Life's Sole Purpose:
"Janet dispels the lies and misconceptions many people have lived by and outlines a practical path to an extraordinary life beyond suffering. Written with honesty, clarity, sincerity, and humor, this book serves as a wonderful guide for anyone seeking a more enriching and fulfilling life.”
Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "All books of wisdom are meant to be read more than once. The Great Truth is one such book."