Tag: words to live by

On June 26th, Forgiveness Day, Forgive Yourself

Traditionally, forgiveness is thought of as something you apply to someone else—someone who has wronged you or hurt you in some way.
But there is another, very empowering perspective—forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer has done some wonderful research on mindfulness. In one of her writings, she describes regrets as illogical emotions. What she means is that it’s illogical to regret what — in a particular moment — we had a good reason for whatever it was we did. It’s only later that we add a story that says we shouldn’t have done it or should have done something different. The regret is an add-on after the fact.
Forgiving yourself is a path out of that story. Life happens, mistakes are made, but the danger lies in getting stuck in the past. Life is tough enough without carrying that baggage. Airlines let you carry on only so much baggage. We should follow the same advice.
One of my favorite reminders in life comes from Mary Karr, an American poet. It’s a line from a piece she wrote on depression.
Your head’s a bad neighborhood: Don’t go there alone.
Perhaps it’s time to pull out a pen and paper and look at where you might need to move on.

What do you need to forgive yourself for doing?
What do you need to forgive yourself for not doing?
What is the cost of continuing to carry these regrets?
What will forgiving yourself allow into your life?

By writing these down, you can acknowledge what happened in the past and then declare that you are starting fresh. This is completely different than trying to convince yourself that you or someone else deserves to be forgiven. This is about saying, Enough already! I’m moving forward.
One of the powerful things that forgiving yourself provides is access to being mindful in the present moment. People often aren’t present or attentive because they’re either worried about the future or regretting something about the past.
Here is an excerpt from an enlightening book, Little Book of Forgiveness by D. Patrick Miller:
Forgiveness replaces the need to anticipate fearfully with the capacity to accept gracefully and improvise brilliantly. It does not argue with fate, but recognizes the opportunities latent within it. If necessity is the mother of invention, forgiveness is the midwife of genius.
To find your missing creativity, release a little of your attachment to the worst injury ever done to you…then celebrate the opening of a door through which your childlike nature can come back to you.
One last comment: The word regret can throw you into a world of thinking about big events, but the smaller, everyday moments or actions can also linger longer than they should as regrets. We wish we would not have wasted that evening or said what we said to a loved one or hit that bad golf shot. The point is that when the last experience lingers, it impacts the current moment. So forgive yourself and move forward into better moments.

Words to live by…

I have several phrases, quotes, and words that I try to live by. They remind me of how I want to interact with the world. Here are two of my favorites:

There is no place to get to—This is a perspective about waiting in airports or traffic, and it just reminds me to enjoy where I am in the moment.
If there is an experience in front of you, have it—This reminds me to participate and try things versus not accepting the invitations that the world offers. In particular, it helps me overcome a tendency to choose comfort over new experiences.

I’m sure you also remember things your parents said repeatedly—things that spoke to the values, standards, and beliefs they felt were important.
Recently my friend Bruce shared a couple of lists that his eight-year-old granddaughter, Elsie, had made, like the one pictured here with reminders for when she returned to school.

Elsie also keeps a list of reminders on a white board behind her bedroom door, and they change from time to time. These were on one board titled “Lessons”:

Be determined
Always tell the truth
Don’t be bossy
Always try something new
Defend yourself in life
Make the right choice
Set an example
Never let your big sister annoy you
Never let your big brother annoy you
Never say “You owe me 10 bucks,” because bucks mean punches, so say “dollars”
Always try stuff
Do your best in school
Attend all the parties you can
Try sports

These lists show me that even young children are thinking about these things. They are constantly learning from us about how they should be in the world. They are watching us. They are listening to us and to their teachers. They are listening to the messages in movies and books.  They are learning from the world.
So I’m wondering,

Do you have a list of reminders about how you want to be in the world? Is it where your children can see it?
What are you saying to your children that they will remember?
What would your children already have on their lists if you asked them?
What books are they reading?
What have they learned about the world recently?

Ask them. The conversations you have will be wonderful and will provide an ideal opportunity to share those values and standards you believe are important in life.
“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. If you treat an individual as he could be, he will become the person he could be.”  
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Writer
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