As we can tell from any Facebook or Instagram feed, the world is really into empowering women these days. A fact I love, and I fact I want to keep moving forward with as I answer the 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself.
I read through the questions and realized that I’d be even stronger, even more aware of my own self and my heart, after answering the questions honestly and slowly. I encourage any one stumbling upon this blog post (male or female!) to ask yourself these questions, too. Your answers will of course be completely different, but my hope is that by sharing my own thoughts you will explore yours, too.
Question 4: Who Do You Need to Forgive?
This is a day I’ve been avoiding. I’ve spoken with a few friends about this topic. In these conversations I mused:
“How am I going to write this without giving in to the all-too-Midwestern style of passive aggressiveness?”
“I’m really, really having a hard time forgiving. Just currently.”
“But the person I need to forgive was really, extremely awful. So…”
I KNOW I’m not alone with these excuses or thoughts behind my lack of forgiveness. I just have a hunch.
Then I started going the other direction.
“Maybe instead of feeling anger and hatred toward anyone I need to forgive I can feel sorry for them instead. That makes me feel a little bit better.”
“Maybe a good conversation would help. I need to do that first. I need [x person] to know just exactly how they made me feel. Maybe I can start compiling a list of all the specific words that hurt the most. Show my vulnerability, eh?”
“You know, I need more time, is all.”
NO!!! Wrong. I was so wrong. And changing anger into pity isn’t exactly the right thing to do, either. Because you know what? That still makes it about them. It’s wasted energy. In the same vein, needing to express myself in order to forgive is a form of selfishness. And forgiveness, I’m pretty sure, is a matter concerning God and ourselves.
I realized I could, eventually, forgive. This is nothing — not compared to what I’ve already accomplished. I remember a day when I finally forgave someone, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. You want to know who I forgave?
I was angry at myself and ashamed. I punished myself for a few years. I thought I was damaged goods and I picked up a few bad habits that I thought would serve as justifiable punishment. I then went through a period where I blamed everyone else. It made me feel just a bit better to at least have someone to point a finger at to explain why I had done what I’d done. It feels better to not feel so guilty. But then it feels even worse and the guilt doubles… knowing you’ve placed blame far from where it belongs. It’s sad to look back on those times, but it also gives me a sense of wonderment I wouldn’t otherwise have concerning where I’ve landed. I remember the day I forgave myself. I remember crying and thanking God and feeling free from some pretty awful things I’d done. I stopped punishing myself.
During that time and after, I had awakenings… moments of beauty that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I learned who I was– down to a core I didn’t know went so deep.
All of that is to say:
Forgiving ourselves is always hardest, right? I think so at least. Even if there are some unsettled feelings in my soul right now, I know for a fact that I will overcome those feelings and eventually forgive. It won’t take nearly as much time as it took when it came to looking at my own mistakes. I have forgiven so many people and I’ve been forgiven by many as well.
I cannot forget that I’ve been forgiven not only by tons of people… many of whom I probably am not even aware of … but also by God.
“Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The Lord’s Prayer is a powerful one for me. It takes me back to my Lutheran Church upbringing. It makes me feel safe — right inside those words.
How can I forget all the forgiveness and love I’ve been shown? How?
Because I’m human, I guess. But I can also rise above this, humble myself, and learn yet again how to forgive… even without all of the stipulations. I can give myself time, sure. I can remember the seasons.
Mostly, I can pray for God to help me with this.
Who do you need to forgive? Have you already conquered it? Is that person still yourself, like it used to be for so many of us?
Know that whatever stage you’re in, you’re not alone in it.
Love, Lou (who maybe needs forgiveness for ending this post with yet another selfie)