Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Mom passed. Expected yet unexpected all at the same time. It’s not something you can ever fully prepare for.

Recently, I found myself back in my old hometown and for some reason I felt called to visit the chapel Mom would quite often visit.

Mom was a woman of deep Christian faith, a guiding and comforting source for her throughout her life. Mom was also a prolific candle lighter, and Our Lady’s Chapel was the place she would light them. For family and friends in time of need or distress, Mom lit candles for us all.

It was my turn to light one for her.

After the candle was lit, I found myself sitting in the back pew of the Chapel. Just sitting. Observing. Remembering. Decompressing. A small boy sitting a few rows in front of me wandered away from his Mother and playfully pushed back the curtain to the Confessional located just to my left. His Mom was not at all pleased, but his actions got me to thinking about something I’ve not thought about for quite some time.

Growing up Catholic, I’ve certainly spent my share of time in the Confessional. As a boy, I’d kneel fearfully in darkness awaiting the priest to open the screen and I’d tell him of my sins for the week. Mostly about the number of swear words I’d used that week (I did my best to quantify my transgressions) and the occasional taking the Lord’s name in vain. Then, with nervous anticipation, I’d await my penance which usually involved a great deal of praying in the back of Church.

Spiritually, I’ve meandered a bit over the years. I’ve confessed a great deal over the years, just not in a Confessional.

Confession is the first step in forgiveness. It’s reflecting upon and acknowledging your actions, or, at times, the lack of them, and asking God to absolve you. In the secular space, I, too, have asked for the forgiveness of others for the times I’ve not lived up to my own Higher standard, for the actions I’ve taken or the lack of them.

Others have also occasionally asked for my forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is always granted, as the weight of holding grudges is more weight than I choose to carry, especially as I get older. I know I’m still far from perfect myself and I like to think I afford others the space to be less than perfect as well.

There is one person, though, I’ve often had a difficult time forgiving.

Me.

Funny how it’s often easier for us to forgive others than it is for us to forgive ourselves.

As I reflect about forgiveness, I realize that self-absolution has never been easy for me. The grudges I chose not to hold towards others I would easily hold against myself, mercilessly holding me perpetually accountable for my actions or lack there of.

Maybe you can relate to not giving yourself the space to be imperfect? To allow yourself to reflect and acknowledge the times in your life where you wish you responded differently, or had taken another path, and then forever beating yourself up for it.

Much of this changed for me when I was able to change the most important of all relationships.

The one with me.

The compassion and forgiveness I so easily dispensed to others? I threw a little of that my own way. I cut myself some slack. I accepted that no matter the result, I did the best I could at the time. I compassionately questioned why I’d befriend others yet wouldn’t extend that same level of friendship towards myself.

I stopped emotionally kicking my own ass.

I’m certain my issues with self-forgiveness can be traced back to the self-identity narratives which were created, nurtured, and perpetuated many decades ago. Many of them based in limitation, steeped in unworthiness, rooted in insecurity. What we are willing to accept as true for who we think we are impacts just about everything.

But narratives can be changed, if we are willing to question them.

It’s a conversation worth having.

It’s the most important conversation I’ve ever had.

What Is It That You Need To Hear From You?

What Is It That You Need To Hear From You?

It’s a tough conversation. Because you know they’re the one responsible for how things turned out. They’re the one who fell short of what could have been. It’s a tough conversation because of who this person actually is.

You.

We hold ourselves to such alarmingly high standards, don’t we? We can be relentless at times, honestly. And when we get caught in a cycle of disappointment or regret we can poison ourselves with the venom of blame and anger. 

What is it that you need to hear from you? Are you able to release yourself from the heaviness of the burdens you’ve placed upon yourself? Because their weight is something you’ve no need to carry. Are you able to look at your younger self and understand that you did the best you could at the time? Because you did. Are you able to forgive yourself for falling short of the unrealistic expectations you’ve often set for yourself? Because forgiveness changes your relationship with you.

Only you can make peace with you. Only you can move you past your past and onto some solid emotional footing to move you forward and into who you now know you really are.

A tough conversation.

But it could be one which sets you free.

What is it that you need to hear from you?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

Imaging what life could be like if we could simply stop carrying around our own backpack full of what we think is wrong with us. How much lighter would life feel?

What if they established one day per year where we could take all the things we consistently trash ourselves for and we could simply let them go? Put them down and walk away. To forgive ourselves for what we’ve done or not done, for who we are or who we think we are supposed to be, for what we haven’t yet done with our lives?

You know. Those gnawing feelings we get about ourselves. Those little voices reminding us of who we think we really are. Our short-comings, our failures, our doubts and fears, our thoughts about not being good enough. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to simply forgive ourselves and start new?

Amnesty.

Emotional amnesty.

The good news is today is Emotional Amnesty Day. Today can be the day to gather up all the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging habits you don’t want to carry around with you any longer. The stuff that keeps you feeling stuck physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The guilt. The shame. The unworthiness. Continue reading “It’s Emotional Amnesty Day”

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

What is the one gift we are so willing to give to others yet seldom give to ourselves?

Love.

Most of us would think nothing of offering a kind heart to others in need, especially to those closest to us. We’d readily be available to a distressed friend, offering our unconditional love, support, and encouragement, even if all we could provide was a shoulder to cry on. We’d do whatever we could to help them up.

Would you be willing to treat yourself the same way?

When it comes to ourselves we often create a cruel double standard. Somehow we believe others are more worthy of our love and compassion than we are. We support our friends during their times of emotional need yet when we could really use a friend of our own we are nowhere to be found. Instead of picking ourselves up, how often do we beat ourselves down, reminding ourselves of our own perceived shortcomings and all Continue reading “The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion”

Random Acts of Blindness

Random Acts of Blindness

Until you understand their pain, you will never understand the person. Without such understanding, the truth is inevitably distorted, and our expectations of others are flawed from the very beginning.

Understanding another’s pain is itself a flawed concept. To truly know pain you must own it. No matter their best intentions, no one else will ever know exactly how you feel. But what needs to be understood is that there is pain in all of us, the emotional dents and dings collected on life’s journey.

We judge others by what we see in front of us. Actions and attitudes not meeting our expectations are often met with harshness and disdain. A logical response in the mind of many. But what if we Continue reading “Random Acts of Blindness”

The Benefits of Kissing Your Own Ass

The Benefits of Kissing Your Own Ass

It’s become standard operating procedure of late. The passing of a music icon disrupts the preprogrammed corporate music playlist of radio stations of the same genre. Now when I hear three songs by the same band or artist played back-to-back-to-back on the radio I assume someone has died.

That was the case recently with the loss of David Bowie. His passing filled the airwaves with his songs, his life celebrated through a lifetime of the music he created and shared with the world.

Sometimes hearing songs for the first time in a long while allows you to appreciate their artistry and message. Time changes us all and often with it our perspective of songs we’ve heard most of our adult lives.

“Insanity laughs…under pressure we’re cracking.”

Back in 1981 when it was recorded by Bowie and Queen, “Under Pressure” was lyrically insignificant to me. It was a great song driven by an infectious bass line. But I couldn’t relate to any meaning the words may have contained. The only pressure I had at that Continue reading “The Benefits of Kissing Your Own Ass”