Goldfish’s All-I’ve-Managed-To-Learn-So-Far Guide To Forgiving Oneself

This month, Bloggers For Peace are supposed to publish a post that exemplifies the power of forgiveness.

This is not an easy topic for me. I can either preach about the benefits of forgiveness and come off like a total hypocrite, or talk about how I am incapable of forgiving certain people and defeat the purpose of the post.

I already wrote a post about forgiving others called G*dd*mn M*th*rf*ck*ng Forg*ven*ss. In that post, I talked about how I cannot forgive two monsters. Forgiveness is just not something I have in me for the crimes that have been committed against me. There are some transgressions that are so life-altering, so despicable, so low-down dirty and evil that you just can’t forgive them. Or I can’t anyway. Maybe some people can, but I can’t. At least, not quite yet.

Not a very peaceful way to start, is it?

I’m honestly not even sure whether I believe it’s possible to forgive certain things. In my view, not all crimes are equal. A starving person stealing a loaf of bread is not the same as a corporate CEO embezzling billions of dollars causing countless people to lose money, although they are both theft. A police officer shooting an armed criminal committing a crime is not the same as a serial killer, although they are both guilty of killing. An 18 year old having sex with his 17 year old girlfriend is not the same as repeated sexual molestation of a child, but they both end up on the sex offender registry just the same.

Murder isn’t just murder. Theft isn’t just theft. There are degrees of culpability and gray areas. When someone does something wrong, they should make amends for their crime, but for some crimes like murder there really are no amends that you can make. A life is not something you can ever replace.

Can you forgive this man? What if it was your family that he killed? What if he personally tried to strangle you to death?

Uh oh. Godwin’s Law

That’s how I see my abusers. I see them as pure evil, because nothing but the purest evil could do what they did.

Forgiveness makes me angry. While I don’t dwell on it, when I think about who I would be giving it to and for what, it makes me angry. So, I’m not going to worry about forgiving the people who have hurt me. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive them, but that’s alright. Instead, I’m working on forgiving myself. I can’t give away forgiveness to others until I have it myself.

Forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving others. Humans are more critical of ourselves than anyone else around us. We all have a little voice in our head telling us that we’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc. It’s about managing that voice and turning it into something positive.

If you cannot forgive yourself, you are constantly chewed up by fear of vulnerability, burning with anger, and living with the constancy of guilt and hurt. Our own perceived transgressions eat away at our insides. They make us cringe late at night lying there in the dark.

Rationally, I know that I am not to blame for the things that have happened to me. I didn’t choose to be a victim. I choose not to live like one now. So, here’s Goldfish’s Handy All-I’ve-Managed-To-Learn-So-Far Pocket Guide To Forgiving Oneself:

  1. Stop holding yourself to a higher standard than others.
    The next time you start doubting yourself, ask yourself what you would tell your family and friends if they were in the same position. If you are capable of forgiving someone else for something, you are capable of forgiving yourself for it, too.
  2. Own your mistakes.
    Mistakes are how humans learn. We know not to put our hand on a hot stove because at one point, we realized that hot stoves are hot. Don’t cringe at your mistakes, own them. Laugh at them. Be proud of them because they prove that you’re capable of learning.

    Loser mistake.
  3. Stop punishing yourself.
    Forgiving yourself isn’t condoning behavior. It’s just not punishing yourself for it anymore. Do you have an embarrassing faux pas that you regret from 20 years ago? Yeah, stop that. Nobody cares anymore. Neither should you.
  4. Cut yourself some slack.
    Remember that forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things to do. It takes a lot of introspection. It takes time. Forgive yourself for not being able to forgive yourself overnight.

You are human. We all are. We all make mistakes. Some mistakes are worse than others, but we all fuck up. The difference between you and me on one side, and Hitler and the monsters on the other is that we learn from our mistakes. The monsters never will and that’s what makes them monsters. We are not monsters, are we? It’s time we forgave ourselves, don’t you think?

High fucking five.