Self-forgiveness is an everyday practice, and sometimes it seems like an every-other-moment moment practice.
When I talk about self-forgiveness, there may come the response, “but if I forgive myself, how will I ever learn anything?”
That’s where our own thinking is pointing us to the reality that for many of us, we were raised linking learning with shame. For instance, we may have shamed into potty training: “are you acting like a big girl now and going to the potty, or are you going to act like a baby and go in your diaper?”
This may have continued into school. Are we the triumphant straight A-student, or have we shamefully flunked?
The reality is, none of this is good for learning.
In fact, it’s the opposite.
We become trained to act out of fear.
And many of us are still holding on to this training.
Do we ask ourselves, why do I wear a shirt and tie? Is it because this is what I like to wear, and therefore gives me confidence? Or am I afraid, so very afraid, that someone will see the real me? In my sweatpants and torn tee-shirt, and think I am lazy?
The messages we get that are intended to shame us into learning something of value may have come from an (albeit unconscious) place of good intent – someone wanted us to “do well” – nevertheless, they hurt. They hurt so badly that we vowed inside ourselves to never feel that badly again, and so we would do anything to prevent that shame.
To this day, many of our behaviors are motivated by that fear of shame.
Where is the energy being directed in that moment? When we are trying desperately to do the right thing so as not to be shamed?
Is it being directed into something creative, some inner growth, or is it being directed into building a wall of protection?
What we as educators, parents and leaders so often forget is that true and lasting change only ever comes from within.
If we want to help someone on their path, we can ask a question that stirs something within them.
We may ask, “do you ever wonder what is beyond the sky?” or “what are your greatest dreams and fantasies?” “What would you do if you could do anything?” Or, “what is your favorite children’s book?” “What do you like to do when you are procrastinating?”
You see, the revolution has to come from the inside. This is true of even children. If we see they are bored, instead of saying, “don’t be bored!” we can try to stir them. From that stirring deep inside will come real change, real learning.
This approach is an approach that will eventually lead, if we apply it, to a world of humans who do not need to be managed or controlled. They will have been taught true responsibility.
This may seem like a pipe dream, and it requires so much patience. More than anything, it requires trust.
Trust is a form of love.
To trust someone – to trust that they have intelligence inside – intelligence beyond the intellect – that will guide them to where their soul wants to be – is to give them freedom and support at the same time.
And it is not for us to judge, where that soul should want to be. If we find ourselves doing so, all we have to do is simply invite the bigger picture to become visible.
The bigger picture includes all of us, every single one of us, doing exactly what we need to be doing at this moment.
It includes a gentle patience, a gentle explanation of the way things work – maybe wordless and coming from the whispers of Earth herself – and a reverence for and always guided by the desire to create understanding.
Understanding is learning. Understanding takes space, it takes quiet. It takes to slow down.
When there is too much going on, its speeds everything up. Then we are just trying to get through this moment, and there isn’t space for understanding to occur.
What we want is not for our children, parents, employees, and students to act a certain way – what we want is for them to be whole.
When humans are whole, they contribute an immeasurable amount just by their very presence. They need not do some assigned task the way we wanted them to do it – it is much more creative than that. They can help to re-envision the whole picture, enrich it with their contribution.
This is a world where everyone is empowered and everyone is sovereign.
Now I can come back around to the question of forgiveness. Once we see that shame and guilt never lead to real learning, the question becomes, “how can I not forgive myself?” With true understanding, we see that only in the space of complete forgiveness, spaciousness and love can real learning occur.
Forgiveness is a letting go. It comes from knowing that our soul is eternal, everlasting. It comes from knowing that true change is an inside job, and cannot be rushed. It comes from knowing that we will get what we need at the right time, and that what we truly need in the moment is already with us.
Forgiveness is like wiping all the dust off your sleeves, your pants, your butt, after falling. It’s leaving all that behind and being clean as a newborn baby. Ready to walk. Ready to learn.