Forgiving Others Is Easy, What About Forgiving Yourself
I grew up as a quasi-Catholic. I spent lots of years in Catholic schools with nuns for teachers, but my family wasn’t actually Catholic. We didn’t go to church except for weddings or funerals. We were more the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny type of Christians.
I always liked Lent; I remember it being a time to have a redo of your New Year’s resolution. It was a time when you could choose to do something or sacrifice something for 40 days. And 40 days was a lot more appealing than 365 days. Even now as an adult I still use Lent as a time to reflect and maybe make some changes that will stick around after the 40 days are over.
This year I am going to let go of the things that I feel guilty about and forgive my own shortcomings. Guilt is an enormous burden to carry around. I have a lot of it. Most of it over things I manufacture in my own head. I think some of us are more prone to carrying around guilt, and some of us are so comfortable with it that we wrap it around ourselves like a warm blanket. I do a lot of things “right.” Even so, I dwell on the things that I do “wrong.”
I know that I am a good mother in the ways that really matter. When I was a teenager I hated living at home. I could not wait until I graduated high school so I could move out and never look back. I told this to anyone who would listen. And I did just that shortly after my 18th birthday. My children don’t want to move out. Even my teenagers who are only a couple years away from college and freedom don’t want to move away. They talk about moving back home when they graduate from college. And I tell them how I will be changing the locks on the doors.
It is all in fun and who knows how things will actually turn out 6, 8, 10 years from now. But the fact that they have never once said, “I can’t wait to get the hell out of this house!” makes me feel as though I have done something right.
And so for Lent I will forgive myself for the little things that eat at me.
I forgive myself for not being a cook and not having the desire to learn how to be a better cook. But my children are not adventurous eaters and when I do make something new and exciting no one wants to eat it anyway and then I am stuck eating enough leftovers to feed an army. Because I am feeding an army.
I forgive myself for yelling when a kind word and some compassion were probably the better choice. Actually anything is usually a better choice than yelling. And yet I just can’t stop myself.
I forgive myself for not staying in touch with people I care about. I really hate the telephone. I said to one of my friends last week that in the event of an emergency she should text me. She agreed that I should do the same. Perhaps that is why we are good friends, we don’t need to actually speak.
I forgive myself for putting work ahead of my children.
I cringe at the number of times I am buried behind the computer screen and shush my children as they talk to me. Or the times I look up and sigh heavily as they excitedly burst into the room to tell me something. Only to have their faces fall and one of them say, “Did you lose your words, Mom?”
I forgive myself for putting my children ahead of my work.
How many times I have I gotten involved with my children when I should be working. When going outside in the sunshine to watch them perform their latest death defying skateboard trick, or basketball shot, or help with a chalk drawing seems more exciting. What isn’t exciting, however, is running out of money before the month is over.
I forgive myself for not achieving that elusive work-life balance, something I am not sure even exists. What would be a perfect solution is if I could give up sleeping. I just haven’t figured out how to make that work yet.
I forgive myself for not ironing on my daughter’s girl scout badges in a timely manner. In fact I passed the task off to someone else. I will admit that when my daughter told me one of the girls in her troop had her badges stapled onto her vest I felt a strong kinship with that girl’s mother. I wanted to grab two glasses, a bottle of wine and head over to their house and shout, “We can be friends!”
I forgive myself for never sewing any buttons back onto any clothing even though I save them all, including the extra ones that come with some clothes, with the delusion that this time will be different.
I forgive myself for hiding in the pantry and eating snack food. But I do it for the children. I am only thinking of them. And their teeth. And the obesity crisis in America. Honestly.
I forgive myself for not changing the sheets on the children’s beds weekly, every other week, until the sheets are able to walk to the laundryroom of their own volition, until a stomach bug hits the house.
I forgive myself for not always checking over my children’s homework before they hand it in. Or making sure they do their homework. I do make sure that they go to school so that counts for something, right?
I forgive myself for the dust bunnies, the weeds, the houseplants that never got watered, and the toothpaste splattered mirror. For the sticky bits on the counter, the crumbs on the floor, the tupperwares of mystery food in the back of the fridge. For the jeans with holes, the mismatched socks worn to school, and the shoes that suddenly are two sizes too small. For not being perfect.
I encourage all of you to forgive yourself too. Because as I was typing this I came to the conclusion that no one else even cares.Published March 16, 2011. Last updated June 25, 2018.