I am a person for whom forgiving others has become easier as I’ve gotten older. As I learn more about the world and my place within it I realise this is one of the best ways to encourage positive change. Forgiveness is not letting things slide when a person does something hurtful to themselves or others, rather it means being a listening ear and a voice of compassion to help us all move past mistakes and make a different choice in the future.
This process of learning to forgive others has been a gradual one, progress often being so small I could not perceive it at the time. Unfortunately the progress I’ve made at forgiving myself is even slower than that. I still hold onto mistakes I made and misdemeanours I was a part of from years ago. When I see the goals I could have achieved and what I could have done with a more astute use of my time the initial feeling I get is one of sadness. This sadness can lead to inaction and thoughts like, “Can I even accomplish anything?” and “Is it worth putting the time in to this thing?”
It is then that I must remind myself of the incremental process learning to forgive others has been, the incremental process learning is. By its very definition we are finding out about something we don’t know so it will take time. There will likely be mistakes. But little by little I’m walking towards being more aware of my attitude more time than I’m not—in what I hope is a pragmatic way and not unhelpfully patronising. (I try to embody the term ‘relentlessly positive’ in a way that encourages myself and others in whatever stage of life we might be.)
For years my mindset had been focussed on finding the negatives, the mistakes, the places where I’ve fallen short. Shifting my mindset away from this partially hereditary, partially learned, default mindset is not something that has happened in five minutes. It’s easy to find flaws and focus on them, to complain, and become blind to everything else but them. It is more difficult to look at a mistake and figure out how I can do better next time. Or look at an outcome and seek a solution rather than to place blame.
We are only in control of a very limited number of things in our lives. In the narrowest sense we are responsible for our behaviours and the way we respond to the behaviour of others. The first place to look is within ourselves, to see if something we’re doing needs to change. If our behaviour is the thing that needs to improve we need to acknowledge that. It’s often the hardest step to take. Blaming others, or looking for something else that happened to us, can stop us from making beautiful and meaningful changes in our lives.
We are going to make mistakes. Every day. Each one can be a helpful learning tool if we take the time to ask ourselves why it happened, and seek to make a different decision next time. Every time we are faced with a decision there’s always at least two paths we can take, and if it’s unfamiliar territory it can be debilitating trying to figure out which is the right one.
Sometimes we need to vent, to air some dirty laundry, and say how we feel out loud. Don’t stop there every time or you’ll find it hard to be friends with your own mind. I know I struggle with this. When you have the energy, engage with those thoughts and see if there are strategies you can put in place to manage them while you are in a headspace to do so. That way you can move at least one step closer to a solution for next time.
Sometimes that solution is doing all we can in a particular situation, watching the end result be different to what we’d hoped for, and accepting that as ok. Heck, that’s introspection—that’s wonderful progress!
Find forgiveness in your heart for yourself and you’ll find you have more energy for the things you enjoy. It’s a long road, a potentially life-long journey, but every step is worthwhile.
Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.