STEP NINE: Forgive ourselves for all harm we may have caused, even if it was well-intended.
Instruction: Forgive yourself.
What is implied in Step Nine is that we will forgive ourselves for all “religious” harm we may have caused someone, but we also want to forgive ourselves for any and all harm we may have caused in any form to any individual. Many people find it easier to forgive the entire human race than to forgive themselves. One problem with being unable to forgive ourselves is that we continue to accumulate more and more mishaps, mistakes, and wrongful deeds that we believe need to be forgiven. Once in a while, it would be nice to be able to clean the slate and start anew. Forgiveness can do that for us, and it can occur not just once in a while but on a regular basis.
Many people have degrees of errors and some kind of arbitrary grading scale. Some people’s reasoning seems to go something like this: “I can forgive myself for my actions yesterday, but what I did last month, or last year, or fifty years ago was so awful I may never be able to forgive myself.” Once again, I’m reminded that some of these people find it easier to forgive others for the exact same things that they don’t seem to be able to forgive in their own lives. Being able to forgive ourselves is often as difficult as being able to love ourselves. They work together. If we keep a running tally of our personal offenses and see ourselves as monsters unworthy of forgiveness and love, we will struggle all our lives with this issue. We will find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships, and we may even find our physical health affected by the guilt and shame we carry with us.
Take inventory today of the things in your life that you have done that you have never forgiven yourself for. Some of these unforgiven moments have stayed with us for years. I recall an incident from my youth that took years to heal. I was helping my minister with some repairs on his basement. My job was to chisel some rough areas to make them smooth when, all of a sudden, the chisel slipped from my hands and fell inside the wall. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I never told anyone. I held on to that for more than fifty years before finally forgiving myself. Looking back, it seems so silly and unnecessary. Had I come forward, I have no doubt the minister would have forgiven me immediately. Still, we hold on to things that could have been released decades ago. As memories surface—and we never want to force these to the surface, but simply allow them to come in their own time—we simply take a moment to grant ourselves forgiveness. It is that simple.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.