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.
I’ll share this perspective on parenting published by POPSUGAR.
I’m sure we all think about that point; when the majority of the whining is over, when the tantrums turn to teenage silent treatments, and our hardest task is getting the kids to put down their phone, instead of stopping them from tossing pancake-syrup-covered dishes against a wall. When the quiet descends.
There’s a point in every mother’s life when we think that is never going to happen. When we think the chaos will extend until the end of time.
But it does happen. It has happened. My youngest is 13 now.
Silence has descended — for the most part. In between the pleas for clothes, makeup, and hair dye (which often come via text message, by the way), silence has left me thinking about what I’ve missed. And I have a confession.
I was the mom who picked out back-to-school clothes and supplies with no input from the one they were bought for.
I was the mom who would rather grocery shop at 3 a.m. than midday, with the kids in tow.
I was the mom who dined out alone, or not at all.
I was the mom who lived her life in fear of judgment.
Now I’m a mom who regrets that.
You know, teenagers are just as annoying out in public. They talk too loudly and inappropriate words flow from them like water from hoses. They can be rude, and God help you if you look at one of them the wrong way.
Yet that behavior is accepted by society. No one has ever approached me after one of my teens blocked an entire store entrance, just for the perfect selfie, and asked me why I didn’t leave them at home to do my shopping.
I didn’t get publicly scolded when one picked up a banana in the produce section and attempted to re-create proper condom placement, as learned in health class (“Just practicing, Mom!” Wink, wink).
No, no one suggested I go it alone from that point on.
You don’t see stories on the internet, or Facebook postings, of me crying in my car because some stranger said something about my teen’s behavior that broke my heart.
Instead we save our criticism for the most vulnerable. The parent with three young kids and a full shopping cart. The parent with a baby in a stroller and a 2-year-old playing hide and seek among the coat racks at Burlington. The mom who is trying to grab a quick bite, and feed her kids, maybe even spending some quality time coloring on thin paper with broken crayons at IHOP, when that pancake-syrup-covered plate hits a wall. When their kids are being kids.
We save our hits for the most vulnerable, who probably haven’t had more than four hours of sleep in a row since half-past never.
Yet these parents battle on. Sometimes brought to tears we don’t see because they wait to reach the safety of their cars. Sometimes vowing to themselves to never, ever take their kids out in public again. Then they get up and do it again the next day. They have to.
These parents have balls that I never did.
I want you to know that I see you, and that I am watching and cheering. While I’m hissing at my teens to move, or put down that banana, I am admiring. I am wishing I’d had your balls.
While I’m sitting kid-less at IHOP because my teens were too busy for a meal with Mom, I’ll be watching wistfully while your beautiful boy screams bloody murder as he hurls his pancakes at the wall.
I’ll be sitting there, wishing I’d grown a pair.
Please. Let’s judge less and celebrate childhood just a little bit more. It leaves us far too quickly.
Wild movements in streets,
viewed with half closed lids,
by those in charge,
faces turned away,
refusing to see or hear,
the pounding bass music of tromping feet,
of the bodies set into motion by
misguided direction and fear of loss.
Our children run to blocked passages,
turn left and right through dark mazes,
fighting to break hedges, forge their paths,
to have light be seen from within,
for they are full of intention and right,
whatever we may think,
however we may dismiss,
and are due a listen.
But the powers look through spread fingers,
seeing only bits and pieces
of the picture of discontentment
fueled by dreams unrealized,
unattainable despite all efforts,
and regardless of noses shortened,
nubbed and worn smooth
by the grindstone.
And so we must pray for those who turn back,
defeated, beaten and bested,
victims of fragile, popped bubbles,
for that will be the dusty ruin of all the world.