Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To Flog or Not To Flog?

“Forgive yourself Hon, and move on.”  These were the sensible words a friend uttered through the phone.  I’m sure she was tired of me beating myself up over having purposely hurt someone I cared about.  I think the saying goes, “ Hell knows no fury like a woman scorned.”  And you guessed it, there’s a full sized color picture of me right above that caption.

Forgive myself?   I began pondering what it meant to “forgive myself?”  How should I go about doing that?  Should I stand in the mirror and tell myself, “Kimberly, you are forgiven?”  I guess I could flog myself like that monk in The Davinci Code?  Or maybe I could drive over to Malibu and toss a stone into the Pacific, as a symbol of letting go of lingering guilt.   (Better yet, I could drive over to Malibu and toss a stone at the guy that hurt me.)  But I digress.  Forgiveness… forgiveness…

It’s funny because I sincerely thought my girlfriend was going to say,  “Forgive him and move on.”   I was shocked to hear her say,  “Forgive yourself, Hon.”  The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. 

Hundreds of ideas ran through my busy mind.  I mean, I really wanted to get this self-forgiveness thing right if I was going to do it.  I didn’t want me rehashing this thing with myself.  I wasn’t going to throw this thing back in my face again.  I just wasn’t going to stand for it!  So, this forgiveness I was asking of myself had to be sincere and, well for lack of a better word… brilliant.  Once I forgave myself I was not turning back.

Then one day, the answer rang loud as a bell.  Out of all of the ritualistic approaches I could take, why not choose the oldest one in the book?  I would contact the person I offended and simply ask for his forgiveness. 

Okay.  So, then I began to “neuroticize” (made up word), about how I would go about my apology. Since I hadn’t spoken to this person in about three months and any attempts to make contact via phone had gone up in smoke, I decided I’d apologize through email.  I felt that my email needed to convey a tone of sincerity, yet at the same time it needed to be precise.  I also wanted to make sure that the apology was about me taking responsibility for my less-than-noble behavior and not about rehashing old annoyances or placing blame.

I was scared of what response I would or wouldn’t get.   Scared of hostility, indifference or rejection.  But I knew this was the only way I could finally forgive myself and let it go.  So, I guess, for purely selfish reasons, I decided to torture myself a little longer in order to free myself from torturing myself any longer.   By asking his forgiveness, I felt I would be doing everything possible to finally close the circle of hurt that lay open between us.  And deep down inside I needed that circle to be closed.  Honestly, I began to realize that forgiveness was the only thing that could close it.

So, I typed up my apologetic email, read it several thousand times and clicked send.  Immediately I went to the sent mail section of my email to make sure I had really sent it and to also make sure I hadn’t accidentally sent it as an email blast, (which, thank god, I hadn’t).

It took him about three days to respond.  His response was not what I hoped for but it didn’t really matter.  What did matter is the lesson I learned about self-forgiveness:  In asking for his forgiveness and making a heart felt apology there was nothing more I could do.  I knew then that it wasn’t anyone’s responsibility to forgive me, but me.  So, that’s what I did. 

(Oh, those aren’t typos.  They’re my closed circles.  Aren’t they beautiful?)

I’d love to hear your stories on self-forgiveness.  Feel free to post.

Happy New Year,
Kimberly Hawthorne, C.Ht.