How Forgiving Myself Is A Favor To Others

#WorkForHappy

  • What Love Has To Do With Forgiveness
  • Forgiving Yourself Is Only The First Step
  • The Favor: What You Give Back By Forgiving Yourself
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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

Love, they say, is the meaning life. Others say it is a mere distraction from real life. I’m 20 years old and I am trying to come to terms with the fact that loving someone is not the same as caring for them.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that love is a choice. Love can run out when the one with holding it is unwilling, and it can multiply when the giver is generous. I, unfortunately, had become dangerously generous.

Guess what? I’ve reclaimed my love. I value it, because I’ve learned to value myself.

That came with a whole lot of work, and it started with forgiveness. Are you a fuck up? Welcome to my world!

This is the story of how I royally screwed up, forgave myself, and learned to value the love I gave away for the sake of the people around me.

What Love Has To Do With Forgiveness

We live in a sex-obsessed society, so the idea of love has become detached and frayed. It’s a grey area, and we find ourselves going night to night with a bakery disaster of unproportionate measurements of love. This is a devaluing of not only the love we have for others, but also for the love we hold for ourselves.

I’ve had a lot of boyfriends, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I had a lot of friends, an abundance of them, and in the long run it ended up ruining me. Since I was a kid I always just wanted a best friend, someone I could depend upon to be by my side always. It was so that I would never be alone. After multiple best friends who ended up not always being there, I turned to boys instead. I loved, and I loved! and I “loved”, but best friend or boyfriend, they always fell through, and I would be left heartbroken.

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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

Here’s the funny thing about the whole “always by my side” thing. Just because I was the type of person that considered bffs/bfs ride or die, that didn’t mean other people did too. This was my undoing.

People have walked all over me and I have let them, because I loved them so much. I would give everything – time, commitment, my ear, money – and I got little if not nothing back.

I couldn’t help giving away what I didn’t have, and it resulted in being left utterly alone. It turns out that the old saying is true: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I learned that the hard way, because bullies weren’t just taking my lunch money. People who were supposed to be friends or boyfriends or whatever were taking away from me, and I began to waste away.

When my love started to go sour, I became a toxic person. I began to be the bully, stealing away with whatever trust people put in me because I figured it’s an endless pool – mine sure was.

It wasn’t. The supply ran out, and I was left even more alone than before.

Three years later, I have a healthy relationship with the friends I have left, a repaired and bettered relationship with my family, and a boyfriend that I know is my forever life partner.

Am I friends with them again? Absolutely not. Yes, it’s important to reconcile with your past, but it’s also important that you close a chapter in order to move on to the next.

The last couple years have been a hard uphill battle. It took a lot of introspection I didn’t want to do, and facing the toxicity of my love, which stung. No one wants to be told that the one thing they thought they were good at is actually the root of all their problems. The “love” I thought I was being so generous with was ultimately more like a never ending need to belong, and a serious fear of abandonment. That “love” is actually an unhealthy dependence on others to define me. By labeling myself this way, I had to accept that maybe I wasn’t such a good person after all.

Everything I had been telling myself had been a lie – I wasn’t the victim here, I was a perpetrator. Kind of like an angel of death, in a way.

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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

I turned myself around, but that didn’t happen over night. I had just found out that apparently, I was a terrible person. That’s not exactly the words my therapist would have used, but it’s definitely how I felt.

The way I did it was turning to the church. Through Jesus I learned to forgive not just the folly of others, but also my own. I’m not saying that religion is how you should do it, because this is a very personal thing. However, forgiving yourself for your own misdeeds is the first step in the direction of bigger and better things. That’s just how I learned to do it.

What’s more, by forgiving myself I also forgave the people I had perceived to have ditched me when I needed them most. Am I friends with them again? Absolutely not. Yes, it’s important to reconcile with your past, but it’s also important that you close a chapter in order to move on to the next. I had to let go of so many people because in doing so, I am also letting go of that part of myself that enabled my own behaviour.

I wish them all the best, truly. I also wish myself the best in doing so.

Love has everything to do with forgiving yourself, because it means you are valuing your capacity to love, and yourself. All that love that I gave away willy-nilly I now pick and choose who I give, and thus I can also now share it with myself, and that is true fulfillment. In doing so I can maintain a better relationship with those around me – family, friends, boyfriend – because I do not depend on them anymore. I love them, I have the resources to truly care for them, because I am supplying myself with that same love and care.

After all, anyone could tell you that in order to love, you have to have love to give. By generating love for yourself, you are creating an endless pool for others as well, because you have that resource. You are energized. You are self sufficient.

Forgiving Yourself Is Only The First Step

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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

So I forgave myself, and I made peace with my past. My eyes were now turned to the future.

Here’s another good saying – fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The complication here is that the culprit here is me, and the victim here is me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring the negative effect that I had on other people with my toxic behaviour, but that started with the way I treated myself. How do I avoid doing that again?

Forgiving yourself is a process, it’s not a one off decision. It wasn’t about forgiving myself for a single fuck up, it was about looking at all the layers that made up the hot mess that I was and zooming in on the intricate details. There was a list of things wrong with me, because rarely is any diagnosis ever that simple.

The essential thing to remember is that forgiving yourself DOES NOT mean excusing yourself from blame. You are not exempt from blame, you are accepting that blame and actively trying to make it right.

There’s a book called “The Bad Seed” by Jory John. The book is about a seed who is very, very bad, because he is rude, he lies about stuff, and *gasp* doesn’t hold the door open for other seeds. Turns out the poor seed has been through a lot and as a result, became a good for nothing, rotten little seed. The bad seed starts to try being better, and while he isn’t always as good as he would like, he tries to be better and that’s the point. It’s okay if he slips up every now and then, because the point is that he is trying – so maybe the bad seed isn’t so bad after all.

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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

The essential thing to remember is that forgiving yourself DOES NOT mean excusing yourself from blame. You are not exempt from blame, you are accepting that blame and actively trying to make it right. If you repeat the behaviour that is destructive and keep forgiving yourself for it, that’s not the right direction, it’s just chipping yourself further into bedrock.

Acknowledge your mistakes, own them, and make the conscious effort to be a better person. The point of this little diversion is this – it’s okay to fuck up every now and then, because you and I are human and inherently flawed. There is no such thing as a perfect person. What this teaches us is that as long as you try and own up to those screw ups, you are still making a good effort.

The Favor: What You Give Back By Forgiving Yourself

I have literally never been happier in my entire life. The most significant change in my life is how much closer I am to my family. In chasing self-definition in best friends and boyfriends, I neglected the people who truly always had my back the entire time, even when I was at the end of my rope.

I can’t imagine what I must have put them through three years ago, and I still have trouble facing that. Yes, I’ve forgiven myself, but there are still days where the guilt is overwhelming. Those days are also usually coupled with my bouts of depression and anxiety, and that’s an ongoing process of recovery I am going through.

I also have intense gratitude for having people in my life that stick by me. This gratitude came hand in hand with forgiving myself, because it meant I could look them in the face, and appreciate the good among all that bad.

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Artwork by Lukas Frischknecht

Not everyone has a family, and I acknowledge that. Again, this is all very personal for me, like my belief in God. I don’t actually come from an all that religious family, but the epiphany is still a very universal one. Whether or not you have a family or a church, you have yourself. Whether or not you have people around you, you will always be around yourself. Funnily enough, I used to have a friend who preached that all the time, but she didn’t have an all that healthy relationship with herself either.

Again, there is a fine balance. Again, you have to have love for yourself before you can give it away, which is why forgiving yourself is actually a favor for the people around you. In bettering yourself you are bettering your relationship with the world around you, and that means a healthier environment for those around you. Trust me, the people that matter always come back.

Make peace with the fact that not everyone has to love you. It won’t matter, because you must love yourself first and foremost. This automatically means that the people that stick around, and the people you will meet that will stick around, will recognize the good in you. You can love them because that supply will be endless. You will have love to give to others, a healthy love, an everlasting one. You will be happier, and so will all your loved ones.

And isn’t that the point, after all?

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