First, forgive yourself
“I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.” Maya Angelou
Something has been bugging me for a while this week. Being a "thinker-type", I go within myself and try to understand why an action or comment gets to me. I want to understand my own pain because I know that healing is the opposite of pain, and if I know how to hurt, I can know how to find healing.
I have actually attempted to write this post several times this week, only to delete the whole thing and walk away. I think this time, it will stick.
Someone made a comment here several weeks back that, at first, seemed almost comically off-base to me. I posted the comment because I felt that it was ridiculous. It didn't hurt me, it made me laugh at what I felt was the person's "clearly misguided conclusion." Recently, I happened upon the person's identity and realized that we had something in common. Our "common ground" forced me to look at the comment again, and I was deeply hurt.
When I hurt, I sometimes forget to look at myself in the mirror and to realize that the source of my pain is as much in my own hands as it is in the hands of a third party. Always, the degree of an offense lies within my own hands. Whether or not a comment is going to hurt me or not, and even how much it is going to hurt me is under my control. I can choose to laugh and walk away from a "hurtful" comment, like I did several weeks ago, or I can let it seep in slowly rotting at the foundation of who I am.
It would be so easy for me to say, "You owe me an apology," to the person who made a careless comment, but the person who really owes me one is me.
At the core of overcoming codependency and childhood wounds is the knowledge that your value lies within you, unchangeable by outside forces. It's a struggle to reprogram the messages within your head and heart about yourself, but it can be done. I know this because I've been working on it everyday for the last seven or eight years of my life. (Many recovery programs call this "reparenting oneself"...)
Most days, I look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman, a loving mother, a courageous advocate for those who have been subjected to the abuse of a sinful world. But it's a process, and I have "down days" where I struggle to see, embrace, and believe that I have value, am beautiful, and worthy of all the good that has happened in my life. On those days, I can be dropped to my knees by external forces very easily.
My pain, it turns out, is my responsibility and my choice. I can choose NOT to be hurt. I can CHOOSE to forgive someone whether or not they ask or even think they need to be forgiven. I can CHOOSE to be okay with whatever I discover--good or bad--about myself.
So the lesson is that I need to learn to forgive myself when I have "one of those days", and to practice forgiveness and grace to others all the time. And a reminder to be careful in the world of type-written posts to say things only after thinking them through. How many times have I hurt or offended someone else because I failed to think through a comment???