I just woke up from the most vivid dream. I was walking down a street with my guide; he was being quiet as always and I was yammering away. We bumped into a friend of mine from high school. She is someone I haven't seen or thought about in a very long time. I hugged her and asked her how she was and suddenly she started pouring her heart out to us. She said she'd been trying in recent years to forgive her brother and father for sexually abusing her. I was shocked. This woman was always happy, upbeat and kind to everyone she met. I had no idea she'd had to deal with this. I hugged her again and was about to tell her how forgiveness takes time, but it's worth it and how you can't forgive someone just once. It has to happen over and over. But my guide just made this dismissive wave in the air with his hand and said, "You don't need to forgive them. You need to forgive yourself."
And then I woke up. It's so true, what he said, isn't it? Sometimes, we're the last person on the list of forgiveness when, really, we should start with ourselves. We always blame ourselves, even when the notion seems outrageous. I've worked with other clients of sexual abuse, and I've seen them wrestle with a lack of self-forgiveness. I've seen mothers of addicts beat themselves up because they should've known about the drugs or stopped it or practiced tough love sooner. I've seen husbands fall to tears when their wives cheat on them believing that if only they'd played less golf or watched less TV, this wouldn't have happened. I've seen teachers fall apart after a student committed suicide because the teachers felt they should have seen the signs.
We all do this. It's safe to beat ourselves up -- we've been doing it long enough. But just for today, practice being gentle and kind to yourself. And let's all take a moment to forgive ourselves -- to embrace ourselves with unconditional love and allow ourselves to bask -- even for a moment -- in the joy of this love. I think it's the closest we can come to knowing God's love for us.