We’ve all done something, said something, or even just felt something that has harmed someone else. Let’s just face it, it’s probably a daily occurrence. Intentionally or unintentionally, we’ve done that.
We’ve probably felt guilty for it. If it was really bad, we’ve probably self-medicated with drugs or alcohol at some point. Hopefully we aren’t still. But we probably have. I have.
After our guilt gets really, really bad, we’ve probably searched for other ways to make ourselves feel better; and to right our wrongs.
When we’ve completed that search, online or through spiritual groups, we’ve found that forgiveness is key. Even 12 step programs have that in there, to make amends to those we’ve harmed.
How selfish is that?
We are saying to those people that we have screwed over: “Please forgive me, the guilt is eating me up, I cannot function properly until you forgive me. I was wrong and never should have treated you that way. I never should have put myself first. I hope that you will be able to forgive me.”
Selfish. Again, thinking only of ourselves and what WE need. Again, asking something of someone.
I’m suggesting trying something different. Look back at what we have done. Before we go off begging for forgiveness from those we have hurt, learn from what we’ve done and try to forgive ourselves first. Promise to learn from it, to never repeat it. Then prove that by living it. Because that’s what we have to do. If we try to forgive ourselves first, before we’ve asked for forgiveness from others, we can see how hard it really is to do. It’s far easier to forgive after we’ve received forgiveness, but the selfishness of that, I think, is what prevents the TRUE learning and acceptance of ourselves.
And that is the only way to ensure that we will not harm someone again. It’s only after we’ve learned to not repeat the behavior, and have forgiven ourselves for that behavior, that we have the right to ask for forgiveness from others and make ourselves feel better.
But we may never get that forgiveness. I know that is hard to accept, but it’s true. Some things may be unforgivable in the eyes of the person you are asking. Some people, especially in today’s society, are just incapable of forgiving.
If we haven’t forgiven ourselves first, we continue to feel guilty and continue to make bad choices because we can’t move on. And we must.
I hope we do get that forgiveness. But more than that, I hope we learn from what we’ve done.
The only way to prove that we have is the biggest and hardest test: Can we forgive ourselves first?
Only after we’ve accomplished that do we have the right to ask someone else to.