Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finding the Strength to Forgive Yourself

Yes... it's Sunday.... not Friday when I typically post my thought provoking blog, but as you know, when I skip a day that means it's been a what?... Yep, a busy week. SO two days late always means I will make it up to you with an extra special message and you will still get the Monday blog to start off your week off on a positive note.

I was initially going to write Friday's blog about difficulty in relationships, (it is still on my list) but after speaking at my church last night to two groups of middle school kids, I was really inspired to share a similar message; an "extra special" message with you that I felt some of you may need to hear.

Faithful or not... it is often hard to forgive others for sadness, hurt or disappointment that they have caused. However, an even harder thing to do is to forgive ourselves. We do things that we know are not an example of who we truly are, we give in to things that we end up feeling bad about later and beat ourselves up, holding onto the guilt that goes with it for a very long time. Maybe you said something or did something to someone you care about in the heat of anger, disappointment or frustration that you knew in afterthought was the wrong thing to do or say. Maybe there are things in your past that you are ashamed of; things that only you know and that you would never openly admit to the people around you today. Maybe there is a family member that continuously does things that destroys their integrity or that flaws their relationship with you, but because they are family you simply have to deal with it and you feel guilty for having this "secret"  feeling of animosity towards them.

Regardless of what scenario you can plug yourself into as you read, I want you to know that forgiving yourself is the only way to start the process of healing from the pain, the sadness, and guilt that you carry with you every day and is simply the KEY to moving on. You should realize that we all make mistakes, nobody is perfect; this is most certainly an imperfect world full of imperfect people. Who are we to judge someone for their mistakes or shortcoming or choices when we have so many of our own?

I remember a time in my life when I was very lost, alone and empty inside. I always blamed others for the negative things that had and continued to happen to me. I refused to own up and admit that it was ME who was wrong... that it was ME who made the choices that got me to where I was in life. However, something happened to me inside in a very specific moment of my life and after many years of playing the blame game and spewing that a "God" that I did not even believe in at the time must hate me, I finally owned up and admitted that it was indeed MY fault, that it was ME who made the wrong choices, did the wrong things; and that began my healing process. It was an incredibly pivotal moment in my life. I not only started to forgive myself, but I finally believed that I was worthy of forgiveness from others.

It was so freeing to begin truly forgiving the people who had hurt me... weight of a thousand mountains lifted off of my shoulders and it was then that I started feeling comfortable sharing the truth about who I really was, the truth about the wrongs I had done and I felt that my stories could help others find this freedom I now had. My shame was gone, I was no longer carrying guilt and it felt amazing. I began to apologize to people I had hurt, and still do this today when I slip up; for I am an imperfect person; we all are, and I too allow situations to get the best of me sometimes.

As I spoke to these young kids last night, I was specifically talking about God's forgiveness, and there was a point in my talk where I stated that when true Christians ask for His forgiveness, it is given to us immediately... without hesitation and stated that parents take longer to forgive us than God. I told them that we are all worthy of forgiveness... acceptance, and that we should realize the people around us are as well. I told them that no matter what they have done or what they will do in the many years ahead, that if they keep faith in their heart they never have to worry about carrying the weight of guilt or shame, that if God had forgiven me after all that I had done which included turning away from faith all together, that he would forgive them too. As I watched their innocent young eyes tear up, I knew I had hit home with many of them; it was an incredible feeling.

For any of you reading... faithful or not, forgiving is the act of letting go... it does not mean that we have to forget what happened and it does not mean we have to continue or rekindle a relationship with someone who hurts us... it is simply the act of freeing OURSELVES from the weight and burden that lies on our shoulders and affects us every single day when we hang on to the pain and it also frees the guilt the other person may hold. Forgiveness is the only way to heal from what has happened and it allows us to embrace what we were meant to be... it helps us realize our purpose in life and it is the absolute way to reach all you ever dream of.

If you recall, I mentioned in a recent blog that I had found and contacted the man who was drinking and driving the vehicle that killed my sister 31 years ago. We have continued to send emails back and forth, he has shared his memories of that night with me and when I told him that I forgave him, he told me that my forgiveness was the most amazing gift anyone could have ever given him. Being able to forgive him was also a gift to me, but without me taking that step neither of those gifts would have been received nor would I have the connection to a past full of questions that I now have answers to.

As I close today's post... these are my final thoughts...

How many things are you holding on to that affect you in a negative way?
How many people have you failed to forgive?
Have you forgiven yourself for your own failures and disappointments?

Claim yourself worthy! Forgive yourself, forgive others... and my promise is that you WILL live a happier life.




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