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Wed, May 16 2007

Self-forgiveness, self-esteem and self-compassion

The Science Daily article on self-compassion made me think about forgiveness. We're often told by psychologists that forgiving others for hurting us frees us to work toward healing and moving on with our lives. I find that many of us get stuck, not on forgiving someone else, but on our own shortcomings and reactions to the wrongdoing by others. This puts us in a position where we block our own ability to perceive healing and where we tend to repeat destructive patterns in our future human relationships and interactions.

Sometimes we're tempted to try to make up for some injury we've received in the past by doing one good deed after another, as though these many good deeds will make up for, or even cancel out, the bad thing that someone else did to us. I've seen very good-hearted people burn themselves out doing church work or volunteer work this way. We're also tempted to do the make-up work in in response to our own mistakes. But this kind of reaction to hurt just doesn't work very well in a universe where time moves on no matter what we do. We can't actually go back and undo (or make someone else undo) a wrong. Attempting to do so wastes the present and blinds us to the real prospects of the future.

Even if we could see the end from the beginning, our ways of preventing wrongdoing in the first place would be through human attempts, which are limited. The only One who has claimed to know the end from the beginning and has been able to really take charge to change the ultimate outcome of past wrongs is God. And even God is using time as we perceive it to teach us that the past is not ours to change or make up for. The future is not ours to rule as mistake-free. We can learn from history but we can't live in history, nor can we live in the future. Our self-esteem is only as good as our perception of the present. Today can be as fresh and new for us as we choose it to be, not by forgetting that wrongs have been done, but by acknowledging that fact fully, and then choosing to leave up to God the things God has promised to take care of. That way, self-compassion isn't just saying, "Maybe I can make up for this or that, or maybe I can do better than that". Self-compassion becomes a process that moves us to see each moment in our day as a new creation, full of possibilities not strictly bound to past wrongs—ours or anyone else's.

posted at: 08:52 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

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