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Forgiveness ~ Step 6: Forgive Yourself

How do you keep relationships open in your family? We set out in the sixth of twelve steps in the forgiveness of Monbourquette.

We are stuck

It stays quiet in the car for a long time.
Eveline and Merlijn ( ° ) have just left their eight-year-old son in the hospital. He is out of danger, but doctors could not promise a full recovery. After the collision, the boy had hit his head hard against the bicycle path. Fortunately, he had worn a helmet, which had saved his life.
“I’m never going to forgive myself,” Eveline suddenly burst out.
‘Yourself?’ said Merlin in astonishment. “You couldn’t help this, could you?”
‘Anyway! I should never have allowed him to ride a bike with his friends. I thought he was too young for it! But I let myself be persuaded… ‘You have to dare to let them go’, said Lies. But her Pieter has nothing! It’s our boy in the hospital now, who knows for how long!’
“Eveline, you couldn’t have foreseen this…”
But Eveline doesn’t even hear Merlin.
‘I knew that the Antwerpse Steenweg is dangerous. How could I be so stupid…’

If something bad happens, we look for someone to blame. And often we end up with ourselves, even when it’s clear that someone else caused the injury. 
After all, the hard blow you received has shattered your inner harmony. All kinds of feelings bubble up in you, including things that you had long repressed. You condemn yourself because you should have foreseen things, because you can no longer undo the past, because you have done too little this or too much that, … There is no end to the things we can blame ourselves for. Beneath the self-reproach is a deep shame about our own shortcomings and limitations. These self-reproaches can take very serious forms, sometimes you can speak of outright self-loathing or self-contempt.

Only by looking at ourselves mildly and humbly forgiving ourselves can we restore our inner peace and open ourselves to forgive others. Only when we embrace ourselves, with all our shortcomings, can we embrace life, with all its shortcomings.
 

Where does this condemnation of ourselves come from?

We can distinguish three sources for this negative self-image.

A negative self-image can grow from not achieving the dreamed ideal. 

When we cannot live up to our ideals, we have to face that we are limited and fallible, ignorant and imperfect in many ways. We are not omnipotent and cannot ‘make’ our lives and ourselves as we dream it, no matter how hard we work for it.

A negative self-image can also come from our dark, unconscious side, our shadow. 

It is, according to Carl Gustav Jung, formed by all aspects of ourselves that were pushed away as we grew up to meet the expectations of our environment. In this shadow can be vulnerability or ambition, softness or aggression, depending on our upbringing. However, this spiritual energy has not disappeared, but has been repressed. She continues to define our lives. For example, those who grew up around selfless, humble people may have carefully hidden their ambitions. This person does not understand where those feelings of inferiority towards successful people come from. Or when ‘being angry’ was taboo at home, people probably hid their anger away. ‘Like his parents, always friendly’, people say. But why does this person feel so intimidated by people who can express their anger in an acceptable way? And where do those unreasonable outbursts of anger come from?
When our inner harmony is broken, all this repressed energy comes up from our shadows. Unfortunately, those repressed facets are not our ally, but behave like an enemy and attack us through self-incrimination.

‘East of Eden’ is still hailed as an iconic film: the story of two brothers who fight for their father’s love. One of them, Aron, is exemplary. He fulfills all that his pious father had dreamed of. Cal with his restless nature is rejected. When Aron discovers a dark family secret, his world collapses. Suddenly, everything he had repressed pours out: his anger, his hatred and cynicism. He can’t control it, he didn’t even know these feelings were inside him. He is destroyed by it.

A third source of negative self-image is the negative messages or aggressive reactions we receive from people who played or play an important role in our lives. 

These messages can be verbal or non-verbal. For example, a baby already registers how his caregivers treat him. When the actions are impatient and aggressive – due to fatigue, depression or wrong expectations on the part of the parents – the baby will absorb these negative messages into his nervous system. In adult life, feelings of self-hatred, inferiority, or the inability to reciprocate love seem to come out of nowhere, but they are by no means the case.

Mona and Elisa ( ° ) are sitting in the living room with a cup of tea. In the kitchen they hear Kevin, a four-year-old foster child, playing with the blocks.
“Wouldn’t he rather play here, with us?” asks Mona.
Elisha shakes her head.
“He needs distance. At first I wanted nothing more than to always be there for him. I wanted to hug him, play with him, say sweet words.’
She stirs her tea thoughtfully. Her eyes are sad, but her voice is warm as she continues.
“I’ve had to see that this is threatening to him. When I touched him, he started hitting himself. He is so neglected as a baby and toddler that hitting is the only language of contact he knows. So now I only try to give him safety: a fixed rhythm, familiar habits, eating at fixed times. We’ll see when he’s ready for more.

The identification with the aggressor

When someone is hurt, there is a strange psychological phenomenon called ‘identification with the aggressor’. The hurtful statements of the person who hurts are, as it were, internalized, and the victim begins to incriminate himself.
“How is it possible to be so naive!”
‘You idiot!’
“Rather lazy than tired, always been.”
“What a disappointment I am to everyone.”
“I’m good for nothing.”

Even when the injustice or blame from outside disappear, the self-accusations continue to grind.
In fact, every person, to a greater or lesser extent, carries with him his package of self-accusations, behind which often the voices of the father, mother, teachers or other educators are hidden.
How strong the impact of these negative messages remains depends on many things: your sensitivity, the safety and warmth of your home environment, and so on.

Yet, everyone recognizes that there are two parts of ourselves that are diametrically opposed to each other. One part behaves like a tyrant: demanding. It is never enough. You are not fast enough, not good enough, not beautiful enough, not slim enough, not strong enough, not understanding enough, not careful enough, not faithful enough…. This part tries to give you a bad conscience by blaming yourself.
The other part behaves like a victim. It undergoes the accusations and experiences the decline in self-esteem. You may try to defend yourself weakly, but it won’t help.
Every person has a victim and a perpetrator in themselves.

Forgiving yourself does not mean trying to deal with the perpetrator in yourself or with the victim in yourself. It means that you accept both sides within yourself.

When you feed the hungry, forgive an insult, or love enemies for Christ, these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do to the least of my brethren, I do to Christ. But what would I do if I found that I myself am the meanest of all, the poor beggar, the most despicable of all those who have wronged me, that I myself beg for alms, that I am the enemy who asks for love? Carl Gustav Jung

Forgiving yourself means recognizing that there is a positive neediness under both sides. The perpetrator has the need to be strong, decisive and autonomous. The victim has the need to be small and vulnerable, to be cherished.

Forgiving yourself means growing a leniency toward both these sides of who you are.


Forgiving yourself: how do you do that?

Forgiving yourself is not a theory, it is about very concrete things. 

You forgive yourself that you thought you were like God and could do anything. You forgive yourself for allowing yourself to be humiliated by negative messages from meaningful people. You forgive yourself for continuing the words or gestures of the person you hurt. You forgive yourself for missing opportunities, for not developing your talents.
But how do we do that?

First, we tell ourselves that we are forgiven.

Forgiveness is always a further giving. You can only forgive yourself to the extent that you realize that you are loved and forgiven.
In the ninth and eleventh steps we dwell longer on the meaning of God’s forgiveness.
Here it suffices to present it as a practical step. Silence yourself and then affirm “God forgives me and I forgive myself.”
Sometimes a repulsive image of God can make this prayer impossible. Then feel free to replace the word ‘God’ with ‘the Love’, ‘the Light’ or any other word that describes divine love for you.

Secondly, it is necessary to repeat this confirmation regularly. 

The self-reproaches have left deep marks in your mind over the years. New, negative experiences run through these channels as if by themselves. Only by repeating a new item over and over do you dig a new bed.
You may feel a little ridiculous at first, but if you repeat this phrase out loud regularly, you will find that it begins to take root in your heart.

Finally, you make this self-forgiveness concrete by doing something extraordinary. 

The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with excessively expensive oils had experienced that he had forgiven her, and thus she was able to forgive herself as well. This was such an immense change that she could not help but perform this act of love. Which act suits your self-forgiveness? Celebrate the change in yourself with something beautiful.

Carmen ( ° ) had suffered greatly from her divorce. The fact that her ex-husband had found new happiness at the side of a second wife, while she had lost work and health, only made it more difficult. The pain of this was grooved on her face. She no longer had contact with her ex-husband. When they met in their small village, they looked the other way. Family celebrations for the children or grandchildren were an ordeal.
Her self-esteem was very low and forgiving herself seemed like an impossible step. Yet she promised to implement the practical tips. One evening she enters the growth group radiant.
“I did it,” she says. “I thanked God that God forgives me, I repeated every day that I forgave myself. And when I saw him walking down the street with his new flame, I didn’t cross over to the other side. I could look at them, and kindly say hello. You should have seen their faces. It was a small thing, but after all these years it was my great act of love, and I feel freer than ever.’
STEP 6 IN A NUTSHELL
We despise ourselves because we are not who we want to be or because we still hear negative messages from others from our past. In every person there is a perpetrator who judges himself and a victim who allows himself to be judged. Tell yourself you are forgiven, repeat and celebrate.
STEP 6 AT YOUR HOME 
When the kids grow up, social media is a new ‘educator’ in the house. This educator is merciless. Precisely at a time when they are very vulnerable, young teens are bombarded with messages like ‘You’re not slim enough, not funny enough, not beautiful enough, not muscular enough.’ Have your children share what they think of these messages. Make it clear to them that they are more than good enough. Set an example by showing yourself that you are satisfied with your height, weight, character, circle of friends, although not everything is as you would like it to be. Forgiving yourself is hard when life doesn’t turn out the way you hoped. But even if you don’t manage to forgive yourself right away, you can be hopeful that things will get better in the future. Tell your children the story of the Rose of Jericho. This little plant looks like a ball of string, dried up and shriveled up. So, it rolls through the desert, a plaything of the wind. It looks completely dead. But as soon as you pour a little water on it, the plant sucks its roots and little by little it becomes a (more or less) green plant. A rose of Jericho can survive for hundreds of years without water. In the past, many farmers in Germany had such a plant that was passed down from generation to generation. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. a toy of the wind. It looks completely dead. But as soon as you pour a little water on it, the plant sucks its roots and little by little it becomes a (more or less) green plant. A rose of Jericho can survive for hundreds of years without water. In the past, many farmers in Germany had such a plant that was passed down from generation to generation. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. a toy of the wind. It looks completely dead. But as soon as you pour a little water on it, the plant sucks its roots and little by little it becomes a (more or less) green plant. A rose of Jericho can survive for hundreds of years without water. In the past, many farmers in Germany had such a plant that was passed down from generation to generation. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. the plant sucks up its roots and little by little it becomes a (more or less) green plant. A rose of Jericho can survive for hundreds of years without water. In the past, many farmers in Germany had such a plant that was passed down from generation to generation. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. the plant sucks up its roots and little by little it becomes a (more or less) green plant. A rose of Jericho can survive for hundreds of years without water. In the past, many farmers in Germany had such a plant that was passed down from generation to generation. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant. Show your children the dried ball and ask them if they think it still has life in it. Then let them pour water into a small bowl and put the rose of Jericho in it. Check regularly what is happening. Before everyone’s astonished eyes, the dried-up ball unfolds into a living plant.

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