Generally speaking, I have a really hard time holding a grudge. I mean this in that I can’t seem to harbour negative feelings towards someone for very long. I’ve definitely tried, but I always find myself back in a neutral emotional space after a little it. Sometimes it isn’t even much more than a minute.
Sounds like a great trait, I know. Who doesn’t like someone who can’t be mad?
The downside is that in larger issues that out to require seeking reconciliation as well as forgiving, I can find it hard to find the motivation because I just … don’t feel the anger/upset/unresolved feelings anymore. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my bursts of emotion, you know that within 5 minutes my caps lock rage is gone and I’m overly agreeable and possibly regret the all caps message I sent 2 minutes ago (Yea, I usually can’t even verbalize it).
But this post isn’t about my 2 second rages and my inability to hold a grudge. It’s about how recently, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that forgiveness, sometimes, when the hurt is deep enough, takes a long time to give. Particularly when the one you need to forgive is yourself.
This fall I started learning about the difference between guilt and shame. Essentially that guilt is feeling bad about an action you’ve done, but shame is feeling as though you are a bad person because of what you’ve done. I don’t think I had ever separated those feelings/concepts in my entire life! I’m definitely a bit of a perfectionist (ok fine a big one), and not doing well at something or not meeting someone’s expectations/feeling like I’ve fallen short really, really cuts me deeply. I hadn’t realized it but I felt this way every time someone asked me questions (sometimes even jokingly) like “Why do you still live with your parents? Can’t you just move out?” or “Why are you doing it that way?” or “Isn’t crossfit bad for you and expensive? Why don’t you do something else?” or “Why are you eating that way? It’s so complicated – are you sure it’s healthy to eat that much protein AND that many carbs?” or “Ew, you listen to country music?”…missing deadlines that I would set arbitrarily for myself, feeling like I was never going to reach the goals I had for myself, and feeling like I was failing at being “healthy” and “fit” (that’s a whole other rant). Which is ridiculous because half those things aren’t even worthy of guilt! And then in situations of conflict or miscommunication, I would take the entirety of the blame internally, and instead of feeling bad about the action, I just assumed it was something wrong with the way I was.
Every stumble felt like a faceplant, every slight detour felt like falling off the side of the road in that Mario Kart race where it’s just a rainbow in the sky and you die every time.
Forgiving myself started with realizing I had a problem – and that problem was that I was allowing myself to carry the weight of every issue, conflict, and misstep. They all had to be my fault, at least in some part, but I let myself take the weight of 100% of all of them. I’d been carrying this deep hurt and grudge against no one but myself.
Forgiveness is learning to separate who I am from the things I do, and letting the feelings shame and guilt separate…and learning to not feel ashamed, but instead to let the proper feelings of guilt lead to the necessary actions. It’s also approaching the people who I’ve wronged and the ones who have wronged me and seeking forgiveness/forgiving them as I ought to (which is really, really hard for me).
Forgiveness is also accepting the forgiveness of God that I tell other people about all the time but somehow forget to apply to myself! (How messed up is that???) And it is surrounding myself with people who can build me up, encourage me intentionally, and point me back to that initial forgiveness (thank you).
I’m still learning, still forgiving, still becoming un-ashamed, and still crying about some of it…but I’m getting there. Ever so slowly I am learning to forgive myself just as I make myself forgive others, and as I have already been forgiven.