Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden
“Remember that no matter what the goal is, your journey will always be unique.”
Healing is such an important topic for me because of the impact it made on my life. Last week’s article (click here to read it) touched on the concept that forgiving ourselves should be one of the first steps. However, the exact reasons for self-forgiveness can be easily misunderstood and difficult to recognize how they are applicable to our individual situations.
When I work with clients, the concept of healing may take 3 or 4 sessions before it starts to become clear how self-forgiveness applies. It is easily misunderstood because the initial damage is always perpetrated by another person. The victim never participates in the actions so why would it be imperative to forgive oneself?
If you asked this question or something comparable to this, you are precisely why this article was written.
When the word “forgiveness” is used in these situations, it’s frequently in the context of forgiving others which often includes the abuser; rarely is it directed towards ourselves. Some even teach that self-forgiveness is somehow egotistical or arrogant. Let me assure you that it most definitely is not. But it is important to understand the reasons why you are forgiving yourself.
Think about the reactions most people have – especially very young children – after these horrible events. “Why me?” or “I must have done something to deserve this”. It even goes to further extremes with thoughts of “God is punishing me because I’m bad” and many more you’ve come across.
Consider how many times you may have had similar thoughts. The truth is NOTHING was done to deserve it. You weren’t bad and you weren’t being punished. But you began punishing yourself the moment you started believing you did.
The original abuse was bad enough but by believing somehow it was deserved, phase two of the abuse begins. However, this phase is often far more damaging because of the shame we put on ourselves. After years of conditioning and acceptance, they are now perceived as immutable facts; ultimately taking on the idea that nothing can change that about us.
It does change. The very moment we forgive ourselves for believing those lies. We understand in many ways, there was no choice but to believe them. Everything influenced, and to a degree, forced us to believe them and this realization makes it possible to forgive ourselves for believing them.
Once the healing begins, the next step is to build self-confidence. Years of false beliefs established patterns of thinking and it will take a concerted, cognizant effort to change it. Overcoming the shame in my life was a struggle; even after I understood the concept of self-forgiveness. But I reminded myself that these memories which once were devastating, are now transformed into moments of healing, renewal, and growth.
The ability to forgive ourselves is perhaps the biggest step we can take in healing. Next week we’ll discuss forgiving others, but in the meantime I look forward to your comments. Thanks to Aaron Burden for the wonderful and very fitting picture.