Mindfulness is the act of paying attention on purpose to this moment. To be mindful means we must continuoulsy return our focus to the present moment. This is can be done by noticing the world around you and taking a number of deep belly breaths. I call it thin slicing life, meaning that when we think about it, most of the right nows of our life are just fine. When we tell our body and mind that we are safe right now it improves our health and well-being. We know that living mindfully reduces stress, improves health, and enhances relationships.
What does living mindfully have to do with self-forgiveness? Everything.
When we are unable to forgive ourselves, we are trapped in the past. We are focused on a moment in time that no longer exists and we have no control over. We obsess over the details of an event and miss all of the right nows. In self-forgiveness we let go of the moments of wrong-doing and bring ourselves back to the now, the only moment that actually exists.
Self-forgiveness is not saying what happened was okay or that (maybe even significant) damage was not done. Instead self-forgivness is honestly accepting the reality of “what’s done is done and I no longer have any power or control to change it.”
The act of self-forgiveness can be scary for some of us because beating ourselves up is all we know how to do. We are taught that it is a weakness to forgive or that forgiveness is somehow saying “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Actually, self-forgivness requires the tremendous courage. An overwheling flood of emotions can come with the acceptance of “what’s done is done”
As long as I hide in my mind obsessing over the event, I don’t have to deal with the immense sadness/anger/shame associated with accepting that I am an imperfect person that made an awful mistake/decision and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now.
All I can do is live with it.
When we are unable to do this for ourselves we remain trapped in our minds because the past can only exist in our imaginations. We think of all the different ways an event could have gone. We think of what we would have done differently. We torment ourselves (and sometimes others) with the guilt and shame we feel about what happened. None of this has the power to change what happened.
The past is written in stone and no amount of obsessing or berating ourselves can ever change that truth.
Curiously, we act like if we beat ourselves up enough or obsess enough over what happened it will somehow result in us or someone else feeling better. This doesn’t make sense. Simply, forgiveness is letting go of the past, a time that no longer exists. Self-forgiveness allows us to live right here and right now. It allows us to do try and do the best we can moving forward. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and make healthier decisions. That’s the best any one of us can do.
“There is grace for every soul.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita,