Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Forgiving Myself When I’ve Let You Down

This is an open letter to the person I’ve let down. Looking back now I can say that I didn’t mean to do what I did, however badly it looked or intended it seems. I know that I’ve seriously jeopardised the trust you would ordinarily have of me. I know that what I did hurts you, even now, and I regret my action—I wish it never happened.

Regret? Remorse? Both are probably indicated in the above passage of words that try to describe that feeling of sorrow for acts (or omissions) committed from one person to another.

We can hardly believe ourselves, at times, in our insensitivities of conscious stupor. I mean, we can even want to box our own ears we feel so angry toward ourselves. This is a real situation that any caring person relates with at least occasionally in life. So, how do we assuage the haranguing guilt that threatens to dog us into our persistent tomorrows?

This type of situation spots the light on the issue of forgiveness. Not of forgiveness needed from the other person per se (though that is relevant); it’s self-forgiveness that’s warranted—an altogether long-forgotten or never-discovered art for the vast majority of us.

To forgive ourselves genuinely is not only the most important thing we can do in these horrible situations, for some it’s made doubly hard, as it’s simply the hardest thing we find we could do—it seems hard for most of us.

And for some of us, we’ve never successfully forgiven ourselves for these types of common misdemeanours. In sum, there’s a massive amount of emotional baggage, and inadequate coping, right there!

All people transgress others from time to time because none of us are perfect. It’s a fact of life that none of us can escape from. But the chief problem appears to be that whilst these mistakes can be borne both from either moral or non-moral failures, we’re quick to polarise all of them as moral failures (failures of intent rather than simply mistakes). This incorrect, unfair, over-judging of situations produces unkempt guilt in an inordinate amount of situations. Any reasonable mind will struggle with that.

Practical steps:

ü We should own what we did and no more than that. We should not be swayed into feeling guiltier than we ought. We must be honest and fair with ourselves.

ü We make the heartfelt apology (in all cases) and seek forgiveness (only for true moral failures) and the reinstatement of trust (as appropriate to the issue at hand) and then accept whatever response comes; these are in the context that we’ve done everything in our power to resolve the issue. Acceptance is huge.

ü We ensure that as far as it depends on us that we put in place steps to ensure this mistake doesn’t happen again i.e. we genuinely learn from our mistakes.

Finally, as I mentioned beforehand, we must remember that none of us are perfect. There’s nothing surer than the fact that we’ll disappoint people occasionally. Acceptance is the golden key. We must work on it until we can routinely master it. Our mental, spiritual and emotional lives depend on it.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

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