Dear Ones –
Thank you so much for everything you're sharing this week with me on the subject of forgiveness.
For those of you who are just tuning in, I'm dedicating my Facebook page this week to FORGIVENESS. I just finished Iyanla Vanzant's six-week e-course on Forgiveness, and it's been pretty revolutionary for me, and I want to try to share what I've learned…and to learn more!
Here's a note that I wrote to myself the other day, after doing some soul-searching about the most painful and difficult kind of forgiveness of all — self-forgiveness.
If you are like me (and I'm going to guess you are, if you are here) then you carry around a giant pile of shame about all your failings, shortcomings, mistakes and perceived sins.
I always knew that I had a problem with self-forgiveness. I knew that I've always had trouble letting myself off the hook, and that sometimes I am unable to drop the knife that I've been holding to my own throat in self-punishment. I felt that I've made a lot of progress on that over the years, and I felt like I understood the origins of my own self-abuse.
But I was amazed to find — while doing my forgiveness work — that so much of the anger and sadness and frustration that I feel toward OTHER PEOPLE is actually tangled up in anger at MYSELF.
Let me explain: As I dissected some of my lasting grudges and resentments toward other people, the story always came back to me. I realized that (deep down) I blamed myself more than I blamed them. I might be angry at someone else for taking advantage of me, for instance, but I was FURIOUS at myself — for allowing myself to be taken advantage of.
And my fury at myself was often greater, deeper, and more toxic than my anger at the other person. Because that person might be an asshole, sure…but *I* was an IDIOT. Because I was the stupid, blind fool who had allowed it to happen.
Here is the mantra of the person who cannot forgive herself:
"You should have known better, you should have known better, you should have known better…"
And what was I furious at myself about? Every single time?
I WAS FURIOUS AT MYSELF FOR NOT KNOWING SOMETHING SOONER THAN I ACTUALLY KNEW IT.
But how can you abuse yourself for not having known something before you knew it? That's so unfair to yourself.
Think of it this way: Imagine that you are in a classroom, on the very first day of school, and you are about to begin studying French, for the very first time in your life. And imagine if the teacher walked into the room and immediately started screaming at you for not being able to speak French yet.
That would be crazy, right?
Because: How could you? How could you know French, before you learned French?
How could you know any of your life's most important lessons, before you learned them?
This may sound almost insanely simplistic, but here goes: YOU CANNOT KNOW SOMETHING BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.
The question of what you should have known (or should have done, or should have stopped, or should have seen coming)…well, this is all just cruelty against a more innocent version of your beautiful, evolving self.
We learn what we learn when we learn it…and not a moment before.
Some of these lessons take a long time to learn — because of your upbringing, your blind spots, your karma, your destiny, your delusions…whatever.
But life will keep trying to teach you, until you finally figure it out. And eventually you will figure it out.
The person who you are today must forgive your younger self for what she could not possibly have known yet at the time. It wasn't because she was stupid, or evil, or terrible…she had simply not taken that class yet.
We are all just students in this classroom. We are all beginners.
Embrace the lessons when you finally learn them, forgive yourself for what you did not know earlier, and move forward in grace and peace and self-compassion.
Here's what I've found: Once I start to forgive myself, it becomes curiously easy to forgive other people. Because I can see that they are just students, too. (They do not know what they cannot yet know.)
So once more I will say it: Drop the knife that you are holding to your own neck.
It is time to set yourself free — and in doing so, you will free others, as well.