As you may know, Pastor Roelof has been away on leave this week, and he has given me the opportunity to write this section of The Pulse. So I wanted to take this chance to write about something I have been thinking about recently… forgiveness.
It’s a topic that comes up regularly at church. At this point I think we all know that God forgives us, and we are called to forgive others. Both are concepts that I have struggled with at times, but neither is what I want to write about right now. I want to talk about forgiving yourself.
You see, when someone does something that hurts me, I have no trouble believing that I should forgive them. It can take me time to get to that point, to move through the hurt and forgive, but I can usually get there within a reasonable amount of time.
And when I do something wrong, I know that God forgives me. And more often than not, when I have hurt someone else and apologised, they have accepted the apology.
But this is where I get stuck. I replay over and over what I have done, what I should have done differently. If I forget something, I tell myself that I should have written it down, set an alarm, done something to make sure that I remember. If I say something that hurts someone, I replay what I said over and over, wondering why I couldn’t have phrased it differently, or held back words said in the heat of the moment.
Even things that don’t make sense… I struggle to call people, because I worry that I will interrupt something important, or take up their time. I worry that this action is a misstep, and so I avoid it. It’s an ironic problem to have given the work I do, but irrational though it may be, it’s in my head.
The thing is, I don’t hold other people to the same standard that I hold myself. It’s good that I know that others won’t be perfect and don’t expect them to be. It’s good that I can forgive them. What isn’t good is that I don’t give myself the same courtesy… really, I don’t allow myself the same grace.
Possibly one of the most well known verses (after John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11) would be Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
You will often hear variations of ‘love your neighbour’. The part that gets left out is the ending… ‘as yourself.’ I think that Jesus said it this way for a reason. Loving yourself matters.
It isn’t good, healthy or helpful to anyone for me to expect perfection of myself, and then punish myself when I fall short of an impossible standard. If God loves me enough to extend grace to me, should I not honour that by allowing myself to be imperfect, make mistakes, and have that be okay?
I don’t have some quick fix on how to cope with this. It’s something that I’ve been aware of for years, and have to continuously work at. It’s a problem more some days than others. What helps most times is stepping back. If this happened the other way around, if the person I hurt hurt me, would I be able to forgive and move on? Or if this happened to another person, what would be a reasonable course of action?
By taking myself out of the equation, it helps me see perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I can still get caught in a loop of blame and guilt over any mistake, big or small. But taking a step back and slowing down can help.
So, what I would like to say is ultimately this. Love yourself as you would your neighbour.
Bye for now…