“Say to yourself in a quiet voice. I forgive you. Repeat until it is true.” Prompt #18 by Ruth Ozeki in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016).
O.K., but what am I forgiving myself for? Should I forgive my hand for eating an entire pint of Tom and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk Ice Cream? Forgive my eyes for binge watching four straight segments of Downton Abbey? Forgive my feet for not dragging themselves out of bed and heading to the gym?
Forgive my mouth for speaking unkind words, the backside of my hand for rendering an unnecessary blow, or my head for making decisions that negatively impacted others?
I’ll go with the last sequence of misdeeds, understanding that forgiving myself, however many times I gently do so, is not the same as making restitution directly with those affected. It’s not the same as petitioning God, a private matter from my point of view. But…here goes.
- I’m unhappy and embarrassed that I asked my teenage son Jason (now 44) to pay for his school clothes out of the birthday money he got from my parents. He said, “Mom, that’s not right.”
- I feel dreadful that when I impatiently and in anger tossed Leslie on her bed, she hit her head on the wood railing. She cried and cried and cried until her three-year-old lungs morphed into sustained whimpers.
- I’m sorry that, in one spontaneous, heartbreaking, thoughtless, against-my-principles-reaction, I slapped Elizabeth across the mouth when she was snappish in the car. Difficult circumstances may exist (the wailing of a baby brother, the noise of three other kids, and my own tardiness), but there is never an excuse for physical violence to one’s own children. I’m blessed that Elizabeth was never as critical of me as I of my mom.
- I turn my eyes heavenward several times a month to apologize for the teenager that I was or to say “Now I understand” to my mom. What’s happy-making is that I think my mother hears me and I know that she always loved me despite my insolent behavior
What is also happy-making is that my children include me in their lives and they love me despite assorted injustices and more serious scars––like leaving a 30+ year marriage and excommunication from the LDS church. That last admission deserves more than brief inclusion at the end of a double dash. I prefer to leave those facts undetailed, for the moment, and accept my son Jonathan’s remedy for scarring.
“We just tattoo over them,” he said.
Beautiful. You are certainly “letting people see Linda” here.
Brave, honest, beautiful! We all have so much to forgive ourselves for, even as we need the forgiveness of the many we hurt when we were not our “best selves.” xo