By Jazmine Reed
I once heard it said that forgiveness is only truly possible after you’ve become a different person. That complete forgiveness can only happen when you’re no longer the person who was hurt.
In a world where we do not ask but demand things without furrowed brows or earned dues, we find it incredibly difficult to pardon ourselves of mistakes – and nearly impossible to grant ourselves absolute repentance. We sentence ourselves to a period of scars and burden our shoulders with self-blame. We must endure the stages in between “fucked up” and “forgiven.”
But we don’t know how. Because we don’t like to change, and we don’t know how. We don’t know how to expand to be greater than the hurt, wiser than the trauma, deeper than the jab. Here’s what happens in-between:
1. Denial, or in other words, blaming everything but ourselves.
When we point our fingers to absolutely every and any other thing but ourselves. And once it becomes too obvious to keep blaming something else, we allow ourselves a pass, tell ourselves we’ve screwed up and that’s ok, because everybody does to a certain degree.
We bless ourselves with a check on the mistake quota and pass around a collection plate, dropping our indiscretions in the bucket and accusing anyone who makes a comment or snide remark of throwing stones. Stubborn and proud, we tell our spectators they are “overreacting” and typically, we continue to fulfill that quota until we spiral into a head-on collision.
2. Self-loathing – which is a form of self-pity – which is yet another route to inaction.
Once we look at what we’ve done or what we’ve said (or what we haven’t done or haven’t said) we begin to internalize our mistakes; we allow our demons to consume us and whisper negative affirmations; in one ear, and out — our saving grace.
We think that torturing ourselves is fixing it. We’re dealing with the repercussions because we’re experiencing the self-hatred, but it brings us no closer to action, or real change, and buries us deeper and deeper into the wounds that we fell into in the first place.
We emotionally-mutilate ourselves, skinning away self-respect and anything that resembles love or esteemed acceptance. We wander through the maze of our psyche, attempting to hear a tree fall. We begin to believe we are rooted in terrible decision making and do not deserve the forgiveness we know we need.
We confuse forgiveness with acceptance, and so we think that hating ourselves is what will push us to change the situation.
3. Bargaining, the grandiose promises that are in equal proportions as exaggerated as our self-hatred is.
“I will never drink again.”
“I will never lie again.”
“I will never binge-eat again.”
“I live never do it again.”
“I will never be kind to those undeserving again.”
“I will never give my unsolicited advice again.”
Deciding to do something and actually doing it are two different things. ANd real change, as we know, happens in the small moments: bit by bit. More intoxicated than we were when we made the mistakes, we are drunk on hope that we are about to be the person on a pedestal, who does not exist.
4. A breakdown and then a breakthrough, to more grounded, honest promises.
We ultimately fail at what we swore we’d change, because no sweeping statement or drastic shift will ever last. It has to be rebuilt, piece by piece. So we start looking at those pieces, and picking them up, and rearranging them, and creating the life we wanted in the first place.
We take a moment to sit and reflect. We can mentally rotate the Rubik’s Cube of how’s, why’s, and self-disgust. We ultimately piece together a strategy and realistic plan. We fill our journals with words and learned wisdom. We lift the pen, go over our words carefully, and close the chapter.
5. Liberation, or the differentiation between ‘self’ and ‘action.’
At this point, we know we can only ask and accept. Ask ourselves why we chose to do or say what we did; accept the consequences. Ask for forgiveness; accept the grace or mercy given to us. Ask for guidance; accept the advice. Ask ourselves for forgiveness; accept we are not perfect and always, always deserve to begin again and have a heart full of hope for better days.
We hope that people see the difference between the choices we made and the people we are. That we are more than we once amounted to, and what we once amounted to is not all that we’ll be. And then we hope, and try, and reach harder, so we can see that ourselves.
Image: Franca Giminez