By Ali Mariani
“To err is human—to forgive, now that is divine.”- Alexander Pope
I hate to get poetic on y’all, but this quote really hits home for me. In the midst of the holiday chaos, the presents, the cookies, the frantic shopping and wrapping—how can we stay faithful to the spirit of the season?
One way is by practicing forgiveness. And forgiving others starts with self-forgiveness.
It is not an easy thing at all. Forgiving ourselves—I mean truly forgiving ourselves– is one of the most difficult challenges that we face as human beings.
For those of us who have struggled with mental health challenges— whether it be depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, addiction—self-forgiveness may not be something that comes easily at all.
Although it is challenging and takes practice, it is necessary for a happy life. When we practice self-forgiveness, we learn how to love ourselves deeply. Forgiveness is love; love is forgiveness. One really cannot exist without the other.
Maybe we need also ask ourselves what we need from ourselves to be able to practice forgiveness. Do we need to lower our expectations? Let go of control? Say “No” more often? Set more boundaries? Do we need to stop comparing yourself to others?
Forgiveness looks different for everyone. It happens at different paces, too. For one person, forgiveness may look like letting ourselves off the hook for a mistake made at work. It might look like accepting that we did the best we could for that day, even if it didn’t feel like our “best”. Maybe it looks like loving ourselves even when we get into an argument with a loved one and say or do something that we wish we hadn’t. It may look like radical acceptance.
It’s not that we are making excuses for “bad behavior” either. Self-forgiveness is more of a keen understanding that even our “behaviors” are attempts at love, and that we are usually doing the best that we can at any given moment. Brene Brown talks about believing that everyone is doing their absolute best, and how this perspective changes our outlook completely.
The beautiful thing about forgiveness is that we usually find when we practice it with ourselves; we can more readily practice it with others. You ever notice when you are kinder to yourself, you extend that kindness to others? And vice versa?
So, this holiday season, practice self-forgiveness and then extend that forgiveness to others—to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. It is the season of giving, after all.