The Presence of Self-Forgiveness

Forgiveness implies a problem – that something is wrong somewhere. A pain has manifested in someone and if I caused that pain, I was wrong and have to make amends. It does not matter that I did not know I caused the pain or the situation was out of my control. I did something wrong.

The message that there is something wrong with us gets reinforced throughout our lifetimes as we encounter the world and its ever-changing rules of engagement. Our laws, media, parents, teachers, and our children will tell us: you are wrong – you did something wrong – you have to fix it – you deserve a punishment. Laws can send us to prison or make us pay a fine. The media will deify those who are prettier/thinner/richer/smarter than us and punish the rest of us with stories and articles about how we are inadequate and here’s what we need to do change that. And if you can’t change, here is how you can “accept” (aka “forgive”) your failings. Punishment from parents could be anything from a frown to withdrawal of privileges to (in the worst case) abuse. Punishment from teachers includes failing grades, public humiliation, and a visit with the principal (who, despite popular spelling tricks, was never your “pal”). Punishment from your children is anyone’s guess. Take a look at your life and tell me what it is.

We also inflict self-punishment, a double-whammy when we’ve wronged ourselves. Hindsight 20/20 is the largest contributor to the embargo of my ability to forgive myself for transgressions against others or myself. For some reason, as I realize why I “should” have not done what I did, I proceed to believe that I “should” have known better and “should” have behaved better. A berating marathon begins and the punishment phase can last a lifetime.

An Internet search for ideas about self-forgiveness brought up the web site Greater Good sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley. While the site implores you to become a member (you can be happy for only $50.00 a year), there is plenty of free material, including some insightful articles and a quiz about forgiveness. All things being equal, I would think that how I apply forgiveness to others would be similar to how I apply self-forgiveness. I took the quiz and found out I have a moderate capacity for forgiveness.

Only moderate? Being the over-achiever I am, moderate is not good enough. Where am I failing to be an excellent forgiver? My test results showed that while I would not want anything bad to happen to anyone, I have a tendency to avoid and withdraw from people who mistreat me (duh – who would hang around?).

I thought about myself as the person who I would need to forgive: What if the person is me?

What if I am avoiding the me – the self – who I was when I made the transgression? What if I have withdrawn from that self who committed a real or imagined sin? I chose the word “sin” here because there were plenty of them sneaking around while I was growing up Catholic along with that offensive right hand we were told to cut off (Matthew 5:30).

Hmmm . . . I wonder where I got the message to avoid or “cut off” from the part of me causing the offense lest I be cast into the horrors of hell for all eternity?

Perhaps it is time to visit with those selves and offer them my right hand in forgiveness.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

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15 Responses to “The Presence of Self-Forgiveness”

  1. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Barbara –

    What a thought-provoking post, there’s so many layers here:

    Media — “The media will deify those who are prettier/thinner/richer/smarter than us and punish the rest of us with stories and articles about how we are inadequate and here’s what we need to do change that.” Media is supported by advertising and we all know that advertising is marketing. The entire focus of marketing — bar none — is to make us dissatisfied with a person (others or self), place, thing, event, or opportunity so that we’ll change/replace the current one.

    Academia — You’re oh-so-right that my princi-pal was never my pal! And my grades (less than stellar) shrouded an incredibly intelligent person who discovered later in life that the way I learn — tactile — was different than the way they taught — auditory.

    Child/Parent — As a child, I let my parents down because I didn’t maintain the facade that our family was perfect (who cares what the neighbors think?!). As a parent I did the best I could with what I knew, but in retrospect it seems to have fallen short of the mark.

    Religion — Oh hell no, I’m not cutting off my hand, or plucking my eye out!

    Spirituality — now there’s a balm I find to be positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

  2. Barbara Kass Says:

    Laurie — one only has to spend a minute reading you at Speaking from the Heart to know that you are intelligent beyond your words, wise beyond your years, and love your son and family beyond the capacity of your heart to hold.

  3. Kathy Says:

    Barbara, enjoyed reading this post very much. Have tried three times to add a few more sentences but the words aren’t coming right now, so shall smile your way and thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  4. ntexas99 Says:

    Sometimes I have to be sure that I have allotted a sufficient amount of time in order to digest your posts (and I hope you know that I mean that in a kind a loving way, because I value what you are sharing). This is one of those times that I’m glad I took the time to read through the entire post, more than once, and took the time to follow some of the links, and also, to bookmark some of it for later.

    What you said about cutting off the offending hand, and what you said about avoiding the “me that offended” is so brilliantly simple, and yet so complex. What an interesting and wide perspective, and how helpful it would be if we could apply that moment of recognition, and allow it to shape our ability to forgive others, and ourselves, in the future.

    I was also in the moderate range, and one thing that jumped out at me was that someone in the moderate range could also get stuck in the feelings of being wronged, and how this could “exacerbate negative emotions”. It would seem I would be willing to allow myself the space to flourish, and grow, but I can clearly see how failing to forgive others, and myself, could completely stifle my ability to live a peaceful existence. Very interesting blog post, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      When I started writing this, I did not know where I would end up. I had been instructed to write about self-forgiveness on one of my shamanic journeys. Some higher wisdom in me knows exactly what is going on and exactly what I need. How powerful and healing is that?

      • ntexas99 Says:

        It is also very encouraging to witness, and I’ve often felt a bit awed at being able to watch your journey. In fact, you are one of the bloggers from way back when, that regularly induces a smile from my heart. Always enjoy crossing paths with you, and reading your unique perspective on any subject.

  5. jeffstroud Says:

    I have seen and read this blog and I am sure I have plenty to comment on.
    As Laurie highlighted so well all the areas you have hit on.

    The word that came up for me is the word that is used in 12 Step programs, Character Defects, as well a 4th Step work doing inventory, of one’s action, the good and the bad. Forgiveness is the key in most of what the 12 Step program is about, forgiveness of self and others to be able to move on, to recover, what do you recover? Your true self!

    I have more to write! Thank you for the thoughtful, conscious raising blog.

    Love You, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — I definitely have work to do on the inventory of my actions especially to recover connection with the selves who I am cut off from. It is like I have been in “time out” for penalties. Love you, too.

  6. Loquamur Says:

    The language of the New Testament (old Greek) uses a word meaning, “release, let go of, send off,” which our wise men render as “forgive” (e.g. “give/send” + “fore/forward/away”). It also uses an indirect-object form for the PEOPLE we forgive, but a direct-object form of words for the things/events/sins/WRONGS that we forgive.

    Here’s the deal: the First Word from the Cross is: “aphes autois,” Father, release for/from them (whatever things are done/this error). “Chop off and fling away” is Jesus’ shock version of “release.” The Buddha noted how central it is that we detach, release, send back to the Infinite, all things that we’re hooked into.
    “Release it from me,” we might pray.
    “I release these things from you,” we might declare, or even, “I release my failings, which is for my benefit.”
    “Let-go-and-let-God.”
    You and I are not in control — we sin, make mistakes, cause accidents, do evil. Cast it off. Release it. Let it go, for yourself, from you, for your own benefit. ACIM offers the ipsissima dicta: Forgive everything.

    Christian doctrine that does not start with the First Word from the Cross violates every claim to being Christian. “How often should I forgive my brother?” asks Peter. Jesus answers, “Let go of him. Release all things he’s done.” Best Buddha laugh ever; Seventy TImes Seven!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Wonderful, David. I knew there were translations that I can interpret anew. These selves I was are definitely stuck and I am the only one who has the power to release me. I sense another shamanic journey in my future to find the best ways to release and reconnect.

  7. Gede Prama Says:

    Thank you friend, there are many inspirational articles
    and thank you for following my web and regards compassion ^_^

  8. Erik Andrulis Says:

    The person is Me, Barbara. Good to find Me again, in everyone I am. Peace, Ik

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