I saw this affirmation the other day on Instagram and it caused me to stop. I felt this immediate catch in my throat as the emotion took hold. I realized how powerful that statement is and I started thinking about what that means to me. As someone who is notoriously hard on myself, I struggle to allow myself the grace of forgiveness within. I am guilty of ruminating over the smallest of things that I did or said for weeks after when everyone else has long forgotten about it.
Miriam Webster defines forgiveness as “release from the guilt or penalty of a defense.” What does that word “release” bring up for you? What do you visualize or imagine it would feel like to find that release? The word “release” automatically makes me visualize a butterfly. It also brings up the word “free” in my mind. What would it be like to be free of anger and hatred and blame and frustration toward oneself?
It is so easy to play the “blame game” when we face a life altering loss. We want to dissect what happened. We think about our actions, and we find ways to correlate our actions with the loss. We play the “if only” scenarios over in our head. We blame ourselves for the loss. It is human nature to do so but that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean the responsibility of the outcome is ours to bear.
grant yourself grace
We are our own worst critic and sometimes the meanest person we know. If a close friend or family member in the same situation confided in you with these same feelings, would you be as hard on them as you are on yourself? You wouldn’t. What would your response be to them? Whatever it is, I imagine it would be said with love, kindness, encouragement, and grace. It is much easier to be objective when it comes to others however, you deserve the same treatment you would grant others, especially as you face a loss.
I mentioned earlier the butterfly imagery that came to mind when reading the definition of forgiveness. I invite you to try a little exercise with me using this imagery. Visualize a butterfly, perhaps sitting on your hand with its wings gently moving back and forth. Imagine that butterfly is carrying the blame and guilt you feel. You watch that butterfly lift from your hand and fly away carrying the burden of blame and guilt away. Do you notice more of a lightness now than you had before? Do you feel that release? Maybe just as that butterfly flies away, you take a deep breath and feel that sensation of allowing the blame to escape and welcoming in a feeling of lightness.
It's not easy to forgive yourself and it may seem impossible. However, explore the thought of forgiveness within, even if you feel you aren’t able or ready. That doesn’t mean you have to decide today to forgive yourself (and yes, forgiving is decision based). Rather just choose to explore this as a possibility and see where it takes you. Try saying these words out loud “I forgive myself.” You may be very emotional saying them and that’s ok. Allow yourself to feel that emotion and acknowledge it. Ask yourself what is behind those feelings. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a friend. You may discover relief from the idea of letting go. Your heart may feel lighter and finally you may experience the healing powers of being kind and forgiving to yourself.
You are worthy of forgiveness
Repeat it again: “I forgive myself”. Say it not just today but tomorrow, the next day and every day after. If no one has told you yet, please know you are permitted to let go, release and forgive yourself. You are worthy of forgiveness!