Attaining peace through forgiveness is especially appropriate to think about during the holiday season. I’m devoting two days to the topic because there are two pieces to it: Forgiving yourself and forgiving others.
Forgiveness is the capacity to let go; it is the ability to release the suffering, sorrows, and burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past that devour your energy, leaving you with inadequate resources to move forward. And until you forgive, you still have an emotional foot in the past, and you are trapped inside a broken relationship.
However, before you can forgive someone else, you need to forgive yourself.
Disappointment is a Teachable Moment
None of us intentionally make decisions that end in disappointment, but it happens to everyone. It could be a job that didn’t work out, a financial deal that went south, a friend who let you down, or a marriage that ended in divorce. There is value in pausing after these occurrences to appreciate the teachable moments and grasp the takeaways, so that we can be better informed for future decisions.
But we are hard on ourselves. There is a tendency to engage in unproductive thought loops that ask “How did I not see this coming?” or “How could I be so stupid?” This kind of thinking leads to paralysis and shame. If you are indulging these thoughts, how can you to lighten up?
Realize (in the case of a broken relationship) that it is not a reflection of your intellect that the partner you chose wasn’t the right one for you. Even if there were red flags that you “should” have seen, you didn’t make a “dumb” decision. You can only see what you are ready to see. Each of us makes the decisions we do with who we are and with the information available to us at the time. Nothing is definite and people and circumstances are constantly changing.
And if you were the one who engaged in behavior that you wish you hadn’t, you need to own your mess and then forgive yourself. This sounds like saying (even if just to yourself), “I was not the person I wanted to be and I didn’t show up to my (fill in the blank) in the way I wish I had. I know I can be better and I will commit to that going forward.”
We’ve All Been There
Give yourself a well-deserved break and join the rest of us—millions of us who have screwed up or who have been disappointed by others. We are a fun group, comprised of bright, successful, appealing people, and we don’t judge others for the decisions they made that didn’t turn out well because each of us have been there.
A big part of self-forgiveness is allowing our imperfections. Instead of blaming and shaming, what have you learned about yourself?