Self-forgiveness is closely tied with self-acceptance. On some level the person who can’t forget something they’ve done, who continually brings up mistakes they have made, or who feels guilty about their choices in life, cannot accept themselves for who they are. Part of maturing is making peace with the life that has been ours. What stands between us and this perfect surrender is a mind filled with judgments and comparisons and labels and excuses and analysis. Surrender is possible only when we live in the absolute immediacy of our experience without commentary and rejection.
At any given moment one thing, and one thing only, is happening. I’m sitting. I’m listening. I’m talking. I’m singing. I’m kneeling. I’m folding my hands. I’m praying. I’m eating. My hands are in the sink, and I’m washing dishes. Most of the time, however, we aren’t present to the immediacy of the present experience. We are thinking about something else. We are commenting to ourselves on how much we like something, or how this is better than that, or why this person next to us is doing what she is doing. We re-run the past and rehearse the future. We live in a world of our own creation, and miss out on the beauty of the world that is of God’s creation.
We live in God’s world when we live fully awake to what is currently unfolding, receiving it silently, curiously, with wonder. Full awareness includes a complete opening to our inner space without judgment.
What is it that you can’t forgive yourself for?
What do you think about the situation or issue that still weighs you down with guilt?
How does this unforgiveness make you feel about yourself? What is the “taste” in your mouth, so to speak, when you remember the situation? Picture it again and just notice.
Can you be present to what you are experiencing without commenting on it? Can you let the thoughts and emotions appear and then casually drop them, as if they were of little interest or consequence, without judging yourself because of them?
This practice can, or probably should, increase a certain level of anxiety at first. We are so used to dissipating the uncomfortableness of the naked gaze into the immediate reality by creating stories, analyzing, figuring, planning, rehearsing, blaming, judging. Our monkey mind distracts us from what is true and what is real. What is true is simple. It is one. It is one moment at a time, one thing at a time, one feeling at a time, one thought at a time.
A giant step toward forgiving ourselves can be taken by simply embracing each moment, as it is, with love, a moment given by God who sustains us in existence, bends over our nothingness, requires nothing of us but this repeated obedient surrender to what in his providence he allows to be. We may not like what we feel or what we see in ourselves. We usually have in the back of our minds a concept of what we would rather or should rather be. God doesn’t love our imaginary “us.” He loves the “us” he has created, as she or he is. Right now that includes the discomfort of what we feel about ourselves. Staying present to this discomfort will in time be the key to maturing in self-acceptance and one day finding it within ourselves to forgive ourselves.