The themes each month on the blog this year have marked my own journey in ways I never expected. This month in particular forced me to grapple with some very real issues I’d been ignoring for years – and in some cases, to take the necessary steps to lay them to rest.
Allie Millette’s guest post touched a particularly tender spot, not just for me but for many of us. It got me thinking about all the ways I let incidents and people in middle school and high school shape my self-perception and my interactions with the world around me, even as an adult.
I remember the bullies on my soccer team when I was eleven years old, skinny girls with painfully straightened hair and short shorts who mocked my thrift store jeans, bookworm’s vocabulary, and my refusal to cry or react when they kicked the ball at my head during scrimmage, even slapped me once (it was the last game of the season, and I resolved not to tattle), called me names.
The friend who told me as a young teenager that I was too fat.
The high school friends who stopped calling because I was, apparently, a goodie-two-shoes, a prude, a nerd…
These things mold us imperceptibly, determining the shapes of the chips we wear on our shoulders.
It has been humbling, looking back from the ripe old age of 27 and finally facing these incidents down one by one, saying “I forgive them” – and trying to mean it. It’s even harder to look at my young, insecure self and say, “I forgive you too, and there was nothing wrong with you,” as Allie wrote so well.
And slowly but surely, I’m coming to terms with myself over past failings and present faults. Because forgiving yourself goes beyond accepting and loving who you are, despite what other people think of you. It also requires that you take a hard look at the places where you’ve flat-out failed.
If you’re even half honest with yourself, you know that at times you’ve done wrong, said unkind things, thought terrible thoughts, deliberately avoided doing good. And perhaps the hardest part of forgiving yourself – after acknowledging where you’ve been wrong, seeking to make amends where possible, and casting yourself on God’s mercy – is letting yourself move on.
We’re not meant to wallow in guilt, yet so many of us do. Reflecting on forgiveness this month, I’ve realized how much my own guilt over so many things in my life has kept me from living and loving as fully as I should. We let our memories of our falls shape our sense of self-worth, and so often they leave us feeling completely worthless. Funny how when you’re convinced that you’re not worth loving yourself, you struggle to love others the way they deserve.
That’s where forgiveness comes in. You have to forgive yourself in order to smash through the lie that the things I’ve done wrong and the flaws in my character define me. Forgiveness blows apart our need to be perfect in our own eyes, because our worth goes deeper than that. Here’s the truth: we’re each of us fallen and flawed, but fundamentally worthwhile. Only when we set about the humbling task of forgiving ourselves can we really believe that … and live accordingly.
It has been a humbling month for me, diving into these issues not just on the blog, but in my real life. I’ve spent a lot of time with them in prayer, trying to work some healing in my own heart and in my relationships. There have been a lot of surprises, some difficult conversations, and a lot of tears – the good, healing kind. Clearly I needed this “theme of the month” more than anyone else, and I thank you all for taking this journey with me.