My Journey to Forgiveness

By Jenny Singer

I REMEMBER HAVING a funny face pancake with a friend of the family when I was very young. He leaned over the table and he asked me if I knew what Shakespeare had said about hate. I was only about seven years old at the time and barely past Dr. Seuss. This man, whose name I can no longer recall told me a Shakespearean quote I have not forgotten over thirty years later. "Hate destroys the vessel in which it is contained."

For many years I interpreted this in the way I believe most people would. I carried a belief that hate was an emotion that people directed outward. Experience has taught me that hatred attracts hatred. Therefore when I am tempted to let hatred into my heart I make a conscious choice to forgive. As surely as hatred attracts hatred, I have had the experience of seeing that forgiveness attracts forgiveness.

Recently I have been struggling with the knowledge that hatred can also be directed inwards. I have noticed with increasing clarity how destructive hatred of self can be. "Hatred destroys the vessel in which it is contained." I am the vessel being destroyed. I have noticed that I rarely extend forgiveness to myself in the generous way I extend it to others. I blame myself much more easily than I blame others. My self-esteem can be shaky at times but I do a good job of concealing it. I have a long list of what I perceive my shortcomings to be. I am not pretty enough; thin enough, smart enough or a good enough Mother. I feel very different than most people. I have often had people say to me that I fit in everywhere yet I fit in nowhere. I am very unconventional. Sometimes I get angry at myself for that. Why can't I just be like everyone else?

I have begun to look at what I need to do to forgive myself for not being the person I wish I could be and that society often seems to expect of me. The first step has been to understand that I am not always to blame when things go wrong. That is a hard one for me to grasp because I believe so strongly in owning my actions. I am learning that sometimes it is best to not assign blame at all. Sometimes things don't go as I expect and it doesn't always mean that someone is to blame. Sometimes things are just not meant to be. I am also learning not to measure myself against other people's yardsticks. This brings me to the most important part of my journey. I can only forgive myself if I am willing to accept myself. I have learned to love myself through acceptance and forgiveness of self. It is just that simple. Recently I wrote an affirmation that I read every morning. It says, "I accept myself exactly as I am right now, today. I am willing to extend unconditional love to myself in the same way I extend it to others." When I do this I am claiming my own healing and forgiveness of self. I have learned the hard way that forgiveness is not just something I must have for others. Forgiveness is something I must also have for myself. This is the balance of all opposites and it is in the middle I am embracing my own essence. I am free. ++


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