“I find that I’m having a lot of difficulty forgiving myself for being ‘weak’: that I allowed myself to be vulnerable, gave another permission to hurt me because I dared to trust and lower my walls.”
That’s all of us at one point or another.
We think we’ve been open with someone, they slam a door in our face. We think we’ve given more than we’ve ever given before, they astoundingly keep a hand out for more and more. And then comes a reckoning, one full of pain and regret. We feel weak.
There wasn’t any weakness.
Maybe you helped someone in need; maybe you gave your own strength to others without thought of reward; you endured hellish trials in the hopes that another’s eyes might open. Show me the weakness there.
It doesn’t matter if things didn’t work out or you weren’t successful. People will find a thousand reasons to be afraid of joy and will lash out to check off a box for each one; you can’t erase anybody else’s fears. If weakness exists, it’s in the parasitic ones, the ones who drain and take without regard for others.
Thought of another way, if you weren’t strong, you wouldn’t be constantly leeched by the weak, so never ever think of yourself as weak or lacking. Instead, forgive yourself. Reassert your strength. That doesn’t mean there won’t be moments of weakness, it just means “weak” does not define you.
How to forgive yourself?
Realize you’re not infallible.
Yes, you with all your intellect, insight, and sense of love, can be hurt by others. It happens to everyone. Has happened and, as a matter of fact, is happening worldwide at this very moment. To so many people. Scientists. Poets. Law makers. Gardeners. Census workers. Dog groomers. Not a soul on this planet is immune to being misled, cheated, betrayed, or simply being wrong, your wonderful soul included.
This doesn’t make you weak any more than gasping for air after being submerged makes you weak. This makes you flesh and blood, still capable of the miracles of love and trust in an often unlovable, untrustworthy existence.
Acknowledge the ups as well as the downs.
Hindsight tells us what we should have done, while foresight told us what we would have liked to have happened. Hindsight is the down, foresight the upward motion, but not necessarily the up. The up is when you find yourself outside the strictures of those two: no matter what pains or pleasures, you made it. You’re here and resplendent.
A lover might have cheated on you or disrespected you unforgivably; a friend might have turned out to be a friend only so far as you catered to their needs; it doesn’t matter. Your journey started off with you on level ground. Lifelines intersected, then paralleled, and for a while the journey of one became the journey of two. It moved up and down, much like the readout of a heart monitor. It ended on a down… and then became flat again.
Not in any metaphorical sense dead, merely level again. Your line continues; the other person’s veers to their own course. It might feel as if you should know where they’re going, but that’s more the illusion of control than lingering connection.
Honestly, you don’t know where you’re going, and that is as it should be. The journey constantly evolves and branches outward, its only request of us that we look inward from time to time. It’s important that we look at what we’ve come through and realize how much strength it takes to reach a single “up,” whereas the downs are laughably easy to stumble down.
Give yourself credit for re-achieving the level line, because that line is the only way you know you’re moving forward.
Let’s look at hindsight again. Hindsight blares You should have known! The signs were there! How could you have allowed someone to hurt you?! Again? Why couldn’t you have engineered things away from this zero point?
What, it says, made you waste your time?
Clearly, hindsight assumes you’re a Time Lord capable of seeing all eventualities and outcomes, and in seeing, change or prevent painful ones. Thing is, if hindsight ever actually worked that way, none of us would ever touch another person all the days of our lives. Things end in this life all the time, one way or another. Call it Yin, pair it with Yang, call it the All, just so long as you know there is no pleasure without pain.
This isn’t a punishment or curse. It’s simply structural. You can no more avert the pains of life than you can its pleasures. The trick, then, is not to embrace the pain as though it is the end-all and be-all of any particular entanglement. Life and love are just as wibbly wobbly as Time, whether we believe we’re Time Lords or not, and there are truly enough things to juggle in life without the added onus of thinking we should control our personal timelines and continuums to maximum benefit.
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Forgive the other.
Let’s establish once and for all that forgiveness is not giving someone who’s hurt you license to do it again. It’s not about saying the violence of betrayal is in any way whatsoever OK.
Forgiveness is about not holding on to barbed wire to prove you earned your pain. Forgiveness is the learning process of letting go of the unfulfilled expectations you had – perhaps even, say, the dream – and returning to the stream of reality.
You forgive another for being human, whatever their illness might be, rather than take emotional distress as a reflection of you. Forgiveness of the other and of yourself places a gentler presence between heartache to prevent you beating yourself up over what you perceive you did wrong. The easiest way to forgive yourself is to go back to the beginning of this piece until you return here.
Step away from the situation. If friends have questions about what went wrong, they’ll have to wait. If they think they’re helping you by bashing on the offending party, step away. No wound can heal if it’s kept wide open.
Self-heal. Often we actively deny ourselves the grace of healing; we think we should be punished in some way for our lack of judgment. This notion is so wrong and dangerous, and likely responsible for a good deal of the perpetual suffering clouding the world today. We’ll punish ourselves in a heartbeat, but treat self-healing as though a decree from the gods is necessary to even consider it.
Know this: no matter what happens to you, “it” does not define you, not unless you allow it again and again and again. You’re not gullible for trusting someone who habitually disappoints you… unless you keep trusting that person. Repetition, then, becomes identity, which is why you absolutely must allow yourself the time and means to heal again and again: build body and soul memory until you know without waver that you are a Survivor of All Things.
Build this memory in a million ways: swim in a pond; sculpt; nap frequently; read; read in a tub; walk; do the things that remind you that you are undeniably worthy of pleasure, grace and joy. You may have been complicit in the pain, but that’s only because we meatbags can’t get enough of reaching out across the void; we need contact to remind us we are part of everything. Being part of everything is inherently important, so take care of that.
Take this literally. Just as with a job so dissatisfying it makes you dread its daily confines, say, “I quit.”
Resign the position of being the voice on your shoulder saying you weren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough or observant enough to have prevented your pain. That voice does nothing but issue pernicious memos directing you to punish yourself, which, we can agree, is a completely crappy job. It’s the file room position where the files are covered in mold, the light needed to retrieve the files dim, and the boss (you in a dual role) does nothing but throw the file back in your face when you deliver it.
We may not know you, but if you’re here on this page, it’s a pretty sure bet you’re some kind of wonderful. Why remain in a dark file room? Tender your resignation effective immediately. The good thing about being your own employee/boss is there’s no need for two-week’s notice to replace you.
There’s a book called In the Quiet Spaces and in it there’s a passage:
“There are too many people in this world ready and willing to cause you pain. The person who says they love you shouldn’t be one of them.”
When’s the last time you told yourself, “I love you”?
Yeah, thought so.
Don’t be one of the people willing and able to cause you pain. You’re far too important for that.
Wondrous one, heal thyself.