For a few years I would head to Connecticut in my early teen years and visit my half-brothers and half-sister. I usually visited in the winter and when I did we went sledding. One day we were packing up to leave and I decided to take one more trip down the hill with my nephew who was maybe 6 at the time. After we reached a complete stop, we started walking over to the car to catch up with everyone else. I pulled the sled and he was walking in the snow behind me. I vividly remember looking back at the giants steps he had to take to walk through the snow because I was having the same issue and my legs were longer. The sun came out midday and softened things up, so the walk was more difficult than usual. I kept pulling the sled and I remember looking back at him struggling to get through while I kept pushing forward.
As silly as it seems, about 2 days later I wondered to myself why didn't I sit him on the sled and pull him. It would've been more fun for him and it would've just been a nice gesture overall. For years I've thought about this scenario and it was always put shame and guilt in my heart. People used to ask if I ever regretted anything in life and I would use this story as an example and I still don't know why it bothered me the way it did. Dramatic it seems, but heavy in my heart.
I forgot this story until today when I thought about the concept of forgiving yourself. Reliving it, that guilt was reintroduced into me at a lighter level. I never forgave myself, I simply forgot about it. I thought about forgiving myself about this but I don't know when I will, but since it's been reintroduced to me, I'm working on it.
You're tough on yourself. It's difficult to find a tougher critic than the one you see in the mirror. Parents, friends, and family may critique you but when the day ends, you're the one manifesting those critiques and bringing relevance to them. At heart, I am not a terrible person — conflicted, but not terrible. In the past there were times where I've done malicious things because I didn't care about consequences or because it felt right in the rush of emotion. There are also times I've done things without the intent to cause harm but still did. Regardless of intent I have always wondered how I could have changed the end results.
You go through this. You think and you think and you let these things eat away at your life, time, and heart. Enough already.
No matter what you've done you deserve forgiveness from yourself foremost. You cannot truly live if you harbor regret, shame, or pain in your heart. When is the last time you apologized to yourself for a decision you made which didn't end up bringing an ideal result? When is the last time you apologized to someone else for a decision you made which didn't end up bringing an ideal result? You can easily recall the last time you apologized to someone else for something you said, wrote, or acted out which offended them: spouse, coworker, boss, even a stranger. How about yourself?
Not that easy to remember.
Apologizing to yourself doesn't mean looking into a mirror and saying "I'm sorry." When you truly apologize to someone else you genuinely understand your fault and are willing to understand that you brought some form of distress, and by apologizing you acknowledge you will no longer cause distress by participating in the same action which caused said distress — sort of like Christian repentance. Why can't you do the same for yourself? Why can't you say "I will never put myself through this again."
If you're not taking the first step in apologizing to yourself, you can't transition into forgiving yourself or transition into letting go of unnecessary pain, guilt, or shame. Repent.
We tend to make poor relationship decisions. Whether parents, sibling, friend, or spouse, we accept things we told ourselves we never would and most importantly things we shouldn't have to accept (granted I am a firm believer in two things, self love and no one should ever be a victim to another person. Victim being a person who has their power removed from them through coercion and/or force). A point in time comes where if you are strong enough, you break free from toxic relationships. Time passes: a month, a year, 4 years or even 10 years but those experiences still stay with you. You look back at what you allowed yourself to go through for whatever the reason: love, financial obligation, or fear, and you hate your past self. You hold onto this hate for too long and you refuse to come to peace with yourself. It changes how you interact with all the new people you meet in our life. You become someone you don't want to be in order counteract someone you previously allowed yourself to be — a victim.
The Six Elements
I believe the most important step in forgiving yourself whether for past or present actions is to tell yourself "It's ok." Because it is. And if it isn't at that exact moment, it will be — but you have to believe it. Saying "It's ok" whether loudly or just silently in your mind manifests what you need to believe in order to understand that the healing process is real. What follows from the manifestation of acknowledging "It's ok" is asking yourself the six elements of discovery: who, what, where, when, why, how.
Who will make it ok? You make it ok. You come to terms with the results you produced and make the right decisions in order to move on from the guilt.
What will make it ok? Acceptance is usually the first step in making it ok. Acceptance is a difficult path in acknowledging a fault you have caused. Once you accept your role, you can work on the next steps in finding peace.
Where should I look to make it ok? Look throughout the Universe. Whether you look in yourself, seek advice from friends, religious counsel, or the internet, the Universe has all the answers you need. You just have to know what you're looking for.
When will it be ok? No one knows. Forgiveness is something that takes time. But if you get on the right path, and understand that things will work themselves out, the majority of the journey is completed. Time will take care of the rest on its own.
Why will it be ok? Because you worked on yourself to make it ok. You realized the errors, the solution and you are putting the effort in to make it better.
And how will it be ok? Your dedication and your belief in yourself will make it ok.
What Type Of Person Are You?
One of my favorite philosophical texts was Aristotle's Nichmachean Ethics where he discusses morals and the virtue of ethics. There are four types of people:
The Virtuous who always do right with no second thought.
The Continent who considers less than virtuous behavior but ends up doing that which is virtuous.
The Incontinent who considers virtuous behavior but ends up delving into vicious behavior.
The Vicious who always have ill-rooted behavior.
I fluctuate between being virtuous and being continent at this point in life. Certain situations will always result in virtuous behavior, while others require some contemplating, but good will be done.
Overall I think we are virtuous in familiar settings and continent when something is new and possibly unsettling. Continent is based on bravery. We do incontinent and vicious things when it seems like the easier way out. Incontinent is based on cowardice.
If you can't be virtuous, always be brave.
Everything works out, but once again you have to believe it. You have to remove burdens from yourself, focus on what you control versus what you cannot and take the reigns accordingly.
Forgive yourself and through that you can forgive others. Find peace in yourself and you find peace with others. If we're all at peace with each other, everyday of our lives becomes that much more exciting to experience. Life is about a good experience.