I believe this is true: that until we can accept ourselves (both our good and not so good aspects), it’s hard to understand and embrace the differences in others.
It’s relatively easy to identify stuff we dislike about other people but can be harder to identify the things we dislike in ourselves. Harder still, to admit to them.
For the best part of the last week I’ve been unwell and have had a lot of time to think about my life. I’ve finally realised what some may have known about me for a long time – that sometimes I have an anger issue. As a child I was not allowed to get angry – I was allowed to be sad or upset but not to be angry. I was taught that to get angry was wrong. As an adult I realise that what my parents were trying to convey is that it’s not the anger itself which is wrong (per se) but what I choose to do with that anger which may be unwise or unhelpful or hurtful to someone else. As an adult I see that, but as a child I simply understood that to be angry was a bad emotion and in my house it was a sin. As a child my experience of other people’s anger (predominantly my father’s) was normally some sort of violent outburst, often directed at one of his children. I was afraid of my father when he was angry, and as I was not allowed to appropriately express anger – I grew up finding any form of angry expression very difficult. Sometimes even now if I’m angry I will cry – and I have a sense that I’m crying for two reasons – one, as a form of releasing some frustration, and the other because tears were an acceptable childhood expression where angry words wasn’t.
I have learnt to come to terms with some of this – I can see what my parents were trying to impart and I have to believe that in raising my siblings and I, they did the best job they could. I have seen anger at times in my siblings but not recognised it in myself. I am the one who has acknowledged an issue with depression and someone once said that depression was just anger turned inward (directed at myself rather than others) -and that makes sense to me. But I’d never really acknowledged my own inappropriate angry outbursts until this week – and I see just how inappropriate they are.
Accepting that ‘this is my stuff’, that I sometimes respond angrily inappropriately, means acknowledging that there are alternative ways of dealing with anger which are appropriate and could be more helpful in future. And I’m finding those ways. Slowly perhaps, but small progress is still progress.
The next step is forgiving myself for my behaviour and choosing to put it behind me and move on. (It sometimes seems that each step is harder than the last!) So that’s been something I’ve been thinking about – forgiving myself. I can’t change what is but I can be aware of my limitations and be mindful of my choices.
In accepting myself, I’m learning to give myself a break, not be so harsh on myself; and in doing that, I’m learning to be a little more understanding, a little kinder and gentler, a little more compassionate with others. So for me it rings true that self acceptance is the first step to embracing the differences in others.
I love this! It seems to me that forgiveness is ALWAYS the right choice.
I’m not suggesting we forget necessarily but I am suggesting we forgive – for our own sake if not that of others. And I know I keep saying it – but if I want to be forgiven, I must learn to forgive. Like many things in life forgiveness is a two way street! And the bonus of forgiving another person – YOU get peace!
Unfortunately, sometimes forgiveness is not just a one-off choice but more of an ongoing process. If you’ve been really badly hurt, you might make the choice to forgive the person who has caused you so much pain. Then the next day you realise that you have to make the same decision to forgive them all over again. Just as loving someone is an ongoing choice, so too forgiveness can be an ongoing choice. And maybe all you can do is forgive what you can right now, knowing that you may have to choose to do it again in an hour’s time, or tomorrow, next week or next month.
If I fell and grazed my knee, my body doesn’t heal itself instantaneously (even if I want it to). It takes time for the white blood cells to form a seal over the injury in order to protect the body. And just as it takes time for a scab to form and for the physical injury to heal itself, so other types of hurt and pain can also take time to heal too. We don’t heal in an instant; healing is on ongoing process. So too forgiveness can become an ongoing process. Not everything in life is “one and done” – you make a decision and suddenly you’re facing the consequences. Some decisions, like love and forgiveness, can be ongoing choices that we need to make over and over and over again. And all you can do (even in the midst of that pain) is to make the best decision you can at any given time. And that’s all any of us can do. So don’t beat yourself up if you find you have to forgive the same person for the same thing more than once – because forgiveness, like love and healing, can take time.
I wish you peace.