In Friday Zoom last week, someone suggested we talk about self-forgiveness. And I was like YESSSS, please!
As I sat down to write this week’s post, I kept having this nagging feeling that I had been here before. And then I remembered, I’d written very similar words in my newspaper column years before. I went in search of it, and found it in my online archives.
The words still ring so true today, and hold even more meaning for me now because at the time I wrote this, the concepts of Redefining Love were not fully established in their present form. Clearly, I was processing the principles that would eventually become Redefining Love, but I had not yet started putting all those big thoughts together into a cohesive framework.
What I see now that I didn’t see then is how truly interconnected all these principles really are. You can’t work on self-forgiveness without forgiveness for others. And you can’t have forgiveness for others without also working on self-forgiveness.
And so, rather than rebuild the wheel, I’m going to republish that column from all those years ago. As you read it, think about the interplay between forgiveness for others who have hurt you, and forgiveness for yourself.
We can discuss our thoughts, feelings, and questions this week in Friday Zooms.
Here’s the original post, from almost exactly 9 years ago (we’ve come a long way, baby!):
It took me a long time to realize what true forgiveness meant. I had people in my life who led me to believe that forgiveness equaled tolerance of intolerable behavior.
I thought that part of being forgiving was to allow myself to be mistreated.
It took a long time for me to learn that you can forgive someone while holding firm to your own personal boundaries. You don’t have to be a doormat to be forgiving.
You can forgive someone while also distancing yourself from bad behavior.
A good friend of mine who also happens to be a therapist once told me, “Sara, if she makes you feel icky, then you don’t have to maintain a friendship with her.”
(I’m pretty sure the word ‘icky’ is a technical therapeutic term.)
This may seem like common sense to some, but for me this was a serious light bulb moment. I applied this new reality to several relationships. I did some major housekeeping.
I learned that I owe people respect and honesty, but not at the expense of myself.
It’s okay to say, “You don’t treat me very well, and I forgive you for that. But I’m not going to put up with it anymore.”
Sometimes it helps to say it to the person. But you don’t owe people who mistreat you any explanation.
You only have to say it to yourself, to give your heart the peace it needs to move on.
At that point, if the relationship is worth saving he or she will do what is necessary to save it.
Respect and honesty go two ways. You deserve it as much as anybody else.
If the other person isn’t willing to do his or her part, then it probably wasn’t the best place for you to be anyway.
It’s okay to pass the responsibility of other people’s bad behavior back to them. It isn’t your job to rescue people from themselves.
After I purged myself of toxic relationships, I still had one more person to forgive.
I had to forgive myself. And it was by far the hardest.
I knew their behavior was wrong, and I let it happen. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for those years I spent as a victim.
This was the bitterest pill to swallow. The truth is, I’m still struggling to get it down.
On the bad days, I want to bang my head against a wall and say, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
I wonder still why I chose to ignore all the darkness around me for so long.
I look around at all the wonderful, positive people in my world, and I’m proud of the life I’ve built.
And thankfully, it’s almost always a good day.
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