Day Eleven of my Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge and today’s one is probably the one I will struggle with the most.
Day Eleven – “The Forgiving” – Choose one thing in your life that you have done and feel guilty for and write yourself a letter forgiving yourself for that thing. Ps. You don’t need to name the thing you did unless you feel comfortable doing so.
Its a funny thing isn’t it? Forgiveness. And by that I mean it is funny peculiar not funny ha ha. But I do fully believe it is also something that can be either extremely freeing or extremely binding. Extremely freeing if given or received correctly or extremely binding when not.
The problem is that some times we are our own worst enemy when it comes to forgiveness aren’t we? Or am I alone in this? You see I hold myself to extremely high standards, punishingly, probably unachievably, high standards in some respects. And yet even with the knowledge that these standards are too high, potentially unachievable still I struggle to forgive myself when I don’t meet them.
Similarly I often get lost between the world of capability and incapability within my mental health. That world which classifies some things, thoughts or actions as being beyond our immediate control as a result of our mental health, and yet which we still refuse to accept were beyond our control and thus come down hard on ourselves over.
Yes if there was one thing which I would want to forgive myself for and yet feel I might still not have done so, it would be something to which both of those things are applicable. The hurt that I have caused my family and loved ones over the years most probably as a result of my mental health.
So here is my letter to myself in respect of that…
So here you are sat writing to yourself and not really knowing just what doing so will even achieve.
And hey, if talking to yourself is a sign of madness, isn’t writing to yourself putting that madness down on paper and isn’t doing so on the net simply putting that madness out there for all to see?
And yet is it? Or is it instead a way of creating a record of something important, something worth going back to when the need arises, something worth sharing in the hope that perhaps, just perhaps others might be able to relate and by doing so to find the very freedom you yourself seek?
Accountability is important to you isn’t it? To us isn’t it? To live, as far as you are able, according to the standards and expectations that you hold yourself within. To love and value and respect others wherever possible. Even when their behavior, their words or actions make that so very difficult sometimes?
But there is that phrase again, “as far as you are able”. What was I able of doing and what was I, as a result of my mental health, not able to do? Which actions, which statements, which reactions and responses, that in the past have hurt those I love came from me and which came from my mental health?
In the striving to achieve beyond the limitations of our mental health have we not somehow robbed our self of the very same understanding and tolerance that we would automatically afford others with the same challenges in life?
And what of that “love and value and respect for others wherever possible. Even when their behavior, their words or actions make that so very difficult sometimes?” Should not that same “love, value and respect” be applied to yourself from yourself even when ‘your behavior’, ‘your words’, ‘your actions’ make that so very difficult at times”?
And what of your faith and of that second greatest commandment? “Love your neighbor as yourself”? “As yourself” the words are clear aren’t they? Are you not somehow failing to do that by failing to forgive yourself?
The fact that you have in the past sometimes hurt the very people you love is undeniable. Just as not knowing whether this resulted from your mental health or simply bad behavior on your part is unknowable.
And here’s the truth. You will no doubt hurt them again in the future and will no doubt still wonder whether it happened as a result of your behavior, attitude or mood, or as a direct result of your mental health. And here’s an additional truth – they will no doubt hurt you in the future.
Why? Because we are human and imperfect and because we all fall short when it comes to how we truly should treat ourselves and each other.
So what is important here? That you hold yourself to too high a standard and expectation and fail to understand or forgive yourself whenever you don’t meet those standards or expectations. Or that you hold yourself to high standards and expectations and yet do so realistically, lovingly, respectfully, realistically.
Which is greater and more desirable here? The freedom that love and forgiveness offers or the bondage that un-forgiveness demands. And with what do we measure this? Our often too involved, too personal, too biased, too harsh, or too emotional, a reaction or the plain simple truth?
That plain simple truth which says, ‘we all fall short when it comes to how we should truly treat ourselves and each other’. And the plain simple truth which says that, in Christ, providing you have sought to: apologize, to put things right, to learn from your mistakes and to try not to repeat them even God himself forgives you of these things.
Accept that forgiveness, grasp that freedom, look to the future.
Because you cannot change the past, but you can learn from it and you can change the way it affects your present and your future.