My thoughts quickly shifted to a concept of forgiveness that is rarely spoken about – at least in the circles I run in. And even less often do we talk about forgiving ourselves.
You know those times, when you’re having a conversation, perhaps at work or maybe with your significant other and they push your buttons and you respond precisely how you don’t want to behave (at least in public). If you’re lucky, they didn't notice or maybe just shrug and things carry on. Sometimes you’re not off the hook that easily and things escalate until you’re arguing about… wait. What were you just arguing about? In either case, you leave the room, lie in bed, or go for a walk later that day and your mind spins and spins through every detail. Forgetting for a moment about all the times you get stuck in the place where everything is everyone else’s fault, think about those times when you ruminate about how you could have done something differently. What comes up for you? Guilt? Frustration? Shame?
How about those moments when you realize that you've blown all the great plans you designed for yourself to fulfill your biggest dreams? All of a sudden you feel like you’re back at square one and can’t see your way past the feelings of failure and defeat.
I like playing the ‘what would you tell your best friend’ game. What if it was your best friend coming to you and telling you about how they lost track of time and missed an important date? If they mean a lot to you, you would very likely forgive them. So why don’t we do that for ourselves? What would it be like when we recognize when we've gotten off track, made a mistake, or acted like a complete basket case, that we simply take a deep breath and let it go? What would that be like? I don’t think the world would end. But really, what’s the worst that could happen?
Now, I’m all for accountability. Like I said, I hold myself (and others) to high expectations. (If that friend has a pattern of forgetting important obligations, I might have a different reaction.) If we consistently let ourselves off the hook, we lower the bar for ourselves and then our goals and hopes become meaningless. I think it’s healthy (and powerful) to maintain high expectations, but there’s something about being mindful to times when we let ourselves down and get stuck in that guilt. Rather than carry those feelings around with us and live with regret or skepticism, what if we cared enough about ourselves to forgive our mistakes? We’re human, after all.