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.