There are many people in my world who have wronged me. No more than anyone else – we all deal with irritating twats, ignorant loudmouths, and just plain rude arseholes. Forgiving the sins – big and small – of others, is a powerful tool that benefits the forgiver more than than the forgiven. At the end of the day, most irritating, ignorant, arseholes are probably blissfully unaware of their foot-in-mouth disease.
The really important act of forgiveness comes not from a compassionate attitude to others, but to ourselves. When we royally fuck up. Say, do, think the wrong thing – be it out of anger, ignorance, habit, self-loathing, or just plain stupidity.
It’s not just words – thinking, I forgive irritating twat for their incessant talking, means nothing if your heart isn’t in it. The chat with yourself needs to be compassionate, empathetic and understanding. So the next time irritating twat won’t shut up, you’re in a position to accept their quirkiness from a compassionate perspective.
Ditto for yourself.
We all fuck up, but how we deal with the fallout speaks volumes. If someone else is negatively impacted by the fuck up, then obviously step one is to reach out and apologise. Whether that person accepts your apology is not the point. The apology needs to be made in a sincere and kind manner, and then extended to yourself. When the only person impacted is yourself it’s harder to forgive. Many people with mental health issues – and for all I know, many people without – act out their shame by punishing themselves or others. Exploding internally or externally.
If you’re an externaliser, maybe you get angry at the world. Chuck things at the wall. Drive aggressively. Scream at people. If you’re an internaliser, maybe you drink too much, self-harm, isolate yourself, eat three buckets of ice-cream, take drugs. And perhaps some people find themselves with a foot in each camp. But however you act out self-loathing, it’s time to take a breath. Sit down and feel the emotions – anger, shame, fear, hopelessness, embarrassment, despair. Whatever is going on needs to be felt and acknowledged. Numbing and punishing yourself into oblivion is counterproductive. We all deserve compassion, empathy and acceptance, and without approaching mistakes and flaws in a kind manner, we learn nothing – staying in a cycle of abuse and punishment, inflicted on ourselves or our nearest and dearest.
Yesterday I received an email that made me sad.
A little piece of hope I’d dared to believe in was snuffed out. In the big scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but I’d hung a lot of expectation on this particular prospect. Turns out, it isn’t meant to be. Naturally I immediately sank into a poor-me, victim mindset, and proceeded to catastrophise my entire life now this opportunity was no longer available. The noise in my head escalated and common sense was drowned out. I clung to some healthy behaviours for a while – putting my nightie on, having a cup of tea, watching trashy television. But the catastrophising wouldn’t stop, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness, purposelessness and how do I move forward now, wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t gain perspective or logic and eventually headed out in my nightie and a jumper to buy junk food I knew I’d purge. So binge and purge I did. I can’t say if it felt good or bad, but I can say perspective on life came back. Immediately followed by the shame of having broken my recovery after so long.
This morning I walked to Coogee Beach to swim in the ladies’ baths – a beautiful pool carved into the rocks at the ocean’s edge. I did very little swimming, instead sitting on the edge of the pool looking out over the ocean, clinging to the railing, and feeling the waves pummel me around as they washed over the pool edge. It satisfied almost every element of my being – water, nature, movement, the sound of waves crashing, the taste of salty water. I talked to God and anyone who would listen, asking for perspective and the ability to stop catastrophising every little bump in the road. I came back from the baths wet and salty, my gym gear stuck and crooked on my damp salty legs, my boobs and butt wet all the way home. And I have a sense of acceptance deep in my belly. I fucked up. It happens. Isn’t the first time and won’t be the last. But my world doesn’t end with this lost opportunity. It wasn’t meant to be so I move on to the next thing. I have to forgive myself.
And as I realised that, it dawned on me that forgiveness – or lack thereof – has been a huge part of my life. I’ve been surrounded by hypercritical people my entire life, and their focus on my imperfections and mistakes made it hard for them to forgive. My transgressions are invariably noticed, commented upon, criticised, and remembered. I’ve rarely been forgiven for my imperfections, mistakes, and just plain idiotic stuff-ups. So there’s a little curly haired girl I’m trying to heal, who needs forgiveness for all the times she did the wrong thing. When willfulness, arrogance, laziness or idiocy were showcased to the world, but the only lesson learned was, You’re not good enough.
You know what? We’re all good enough.
Just writing it down isn’t enough – tattooing it onto the heart and absorbing it into the essence of being is the key to healing. Forgiveness starts with me – if I can’t forgive myself, I can never fully forgive others. And without a forgiving heart, the world can feel like a hopeless place to reside. So today I look at the little girl who wanted to be loved and forgive her for not being perfect, and I look into my own adult heart and say, It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re forgiven.