This is step 1 in the “7 Steps to Freedom through Forgiveness” series. As we begin this work together and as you find yourself open to a more free way of being yourself, I ask you to be open also to God’s healing in your life. When you are open to God’s work, the healing and change process will be supported, easier and more effective.
You are welcome to contact me for one to one coaching at any time you feel you’d like to go deeper. And so, let’s begin…
“Anger, resentment, lust for revenge, even success through aggressive competitiveness, are corrosive… To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest…It gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.” Desmond Tutu
Mistake 1: Forgetting that you are loved and accepted
When you get into “kicking yourself mode”, finding fault with yourself, heaping guilt upon the behaviors you wish you could change, you are actually getting yourself further stuck in the mud.
As a result, you find yourself also finding fault with others, which leads them to find fault with you, which makes you feel worse about yourself…and the whole thing continues its downward spiral. You start to find yourself:
> withdrawing into yourself and shutting others out
> perpetuating exactly the behaviors that you don’t want to be doing
> seeing the negative and the hurt more and more.
Instead, try looking at yourself as a person who is doing the best that you can, given the level of awareness that you have right now. While you may not find yourself to be perfect, you can see that even your worst behaviors are done with positive intentions. You are probably protecting yourself, and the coping strategies you have developed have likely benefited you in some way in the past.
What does accepting yourself have to do with forgiveness? Only that forgiveness is impossible without it. If you want a lifestyle of forgiveness and a lifestyle of freedom, it starts with accepting and forgiving yourself.
When you accept yourself, you make an agreement with yourself that you will appreciate, affirm and support who you already are in this moment. You can see the advantages of who you have become and the experiences you have had. When you tell yourself that, “I love myself, even though I sometimes ________________________,” it makes it easier to change whatever that fill-in-the-blank is in your life.
Self acceptance leads to a new life with new possibilities that did not exist when we were caught up in the struggle against reality. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be unhappy with yourself to change things about yourself that you don’t like.
You can ask yourself these questions:
> When I behave in this way that I don’t like, what benefit am I gaining?
This may seem like a silly question, because at first it seems like you aren’t benefitting at all—your bad behaviors are just adding to your frustration with yourself. With closer examination, you may find that there are hidden benefits galore. Perhaps this behavior is protecting you from looking stupid, from being too vulnerable, from humiliating yourself in some way. Perhaps underneath it all, you are seeking to gain peace, respect, love, security… When you come to realize what these benefits are, it may feel like a sudden revelation. And all at once you know that there are better, more honest, ways to receive these benefits you so greatly desire. You can almost picture yourself breathing a sigh of relief.
> Am I more than my behaviors?
And you may already be starting to realize that there is a distinction between who you are and what you do. At times, you have behaved brilliantly and have found more internal strength than you could have ever imagined you had. At other times, your behavior seems childish even to yourself. So who are you?
In time you will discover that you are much more than what you happen to be doing, or how you happen to be feeling, at a given moment. When you believe that you have been wonderfully created to be a blessing in this world, and that—warts and all—you are uniquely designed for the tiny bit of the universe that you occupy, you can start to give yourself a bit of grace.
> What is my source of strength?
As you discover what you are really looking for—those good things that you want to see happening in your life, be it peace, kindness, security, love…–find out what belief you may want to hold onto that will help you to move TOWARD those good things. These truthful and kind beliefs are called your “source of strength”. For example, one person’s source of strength, who is looking for security, might be, “I am always supported wherever I go.” For another person, a source of strength may be, “There is enough love for me in this world.” For another, it may be, “I’m enough.” Your source of strength is waiting for you and will come to you when you are quiet and listening for a moment.
–> Take a few moments for this Action Step, which you can come back to again and again:
When you are ready, as you find yourself now a quiet place to take a few moments for this important first step:
You can begin by finding a warm, comfortable position in which you can sit or lie down in a soothing way.
While you adjust your posture to make yourself even more comfortable, maybe you can even take a few deep breaths, slowly and tenderly, and allow yourself to become even more relaxed.
Beginning to consciously invoke feelings of love and kindness toward yourself, perhaps by saying inwardly, “I am God’s beloved child. I am united with the one who created me just as I am. I am one in spirit with him. May I be free from anger, may I be free from hatred; may I be filled with compassion; may I feel God’s kindness toward me.”
And while you can imagine or picture yourself with this loving-kindness, imagine also what kind of unconditional love is available for you… that kind of love that accepts you and loves you as you are… Picturing yourself with your life story, regarded in completeness by One who is perfectly loving, perfectly wise, perfectly forgiving. Someone who appreciates you dearly, who sees the real you and loves you—the real you, with all your weaknesses. Just being in the presence of God in any posture that is comfortable for you, breathing softly, being still for awhile and enjoying the presence of that completely loving being, with whom you can be at one.
As you sit quietly, you may be surprised to find your source of strength appearing in your awareness. That knowledge that can go with you and be there when you can rely on it.
Take a deep breath once again and gently exhale as you go on into your day.
Mistake 2: Thinking “It could have been different” is coming next week….Watch this space.
To your life of Freedom.