The Hardest Forgiveness Lesson

People say it’s hard to forgive someone who is not sorry. And they are correct in this notion if we live in the reality that one must first offer penance before forgiveness can occur. They are right to feel exhausted at carrying both the sting of a wrong and the burden of it’s consequences. They are justified in the humility they realize when they see  no justification for the bad things someone else brought on.

But let’s talk about a harder forgiveness.

What’s harder is to forgive yourself. You know. Those moments you don’t allow yourself to be happy with an accomplishment because it wasn’t large enough. The times you made a silly choice and you paid for it. The sour stomach you have over not paying attention then and silently living with “I told you so” inside your head now.

So, you work harder to reach an even higher aspiration. You get cold feet when you are about to make another big purchase. You back out of an opportunity because you can’t trust that you won’t get hurt again. You build a capsule of protection around your bruised ego with more expectations and new rules to live by. You know, because you expect yourself to be better.

Slowly you become a different person. The joy isn’t as joyous. The accomplishments aren’t as big of a deal. The new opportunities are not important enough. Because you can’t let go of those moments when you let yourself down.

You pray harder. You volunteer more. You do more. When you feel a nap coming on, you chastise yourself for being lazy. When you long for a weekend of leisure, you pull up the bootstraps and work until dusk on a project, because, you expect yourself to be better. You surround yourself with people who are now bearing the burden of telling you what you want to tell yourself, “You are a good person.” You call your best friend to admit, “I’ve done a terrible thing” because you know she will say those sweet words, “It’s going to be ok” you long to hear within yourself.

You think,

“No rest for the weary.”

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

“My children will have it better than me.”

One day, you wake up and realize, you are exhausted and you don’t even like where you ended up.


We grow up learning to be kind to others. We are taught to turn the other cheek.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Why do we learn this? Because we try to embrace the moral principle known as the ‘Golden Rule’, otherwise known as the ethic of reciprocity, which means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

Generally speaking, we believe if we do unto others kindly, they do unto us kindly, then the world will be a kinder place.


We learn to be kind to others. But who teaches us to be kind to ourselves? We learn to love one another, even our greatest enemy, but who teaches us to love ourselves? Shouldn’t we be learning how to be kind to ourselves so we can understand the impact of being kind to others?

If love is learned, how much better could we teach others to love just by being compassionate to ourselves? How will someone know how to love us if we can’t teach them by example?  If we all lived in this manner, then the Golden Rule would be so much more beautiful to live by because there would be an understanding of what to do unto others. In the words of Lama Yeshe, “Be gentle with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.”


Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate to you. Take the time and listen to you. If you only hear the voice inside your head listing all of the things you should be doing, the reminder of how much you need to do, then it’s not the voice referenced here. It’s the one that is quiet and small and almost snuffed out, but whispering, “You are beautiful. You are worth it. It’s going to be ok.” It’s the voice that is asking you to stop and smell the flowers because it makes you smile. It’s the reminder of how much you like baseball, but you don’t want to waste the money on a ticket this season, because you don’t deserve it. The one that says you love that shade of green you almost bought for the kitchen wall, but you didn’t, because it wasn’t practical.

It’s the moment you realize you haven’t given yourself the same compassion you spend endless hours giving to others. But the truth is, compassion comes from within. If you are to be beacons of human kindness, then you must first learn forgiveness in the hardest form: forgive yourself.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha






6 thoughts on “The Hardest Forgiveness Lesson

  1. Why am I still a prisoner of the past? I kept saying that I’ve moved on, that I’ve learned how to let go of the hate, but it’s within me, waiting, waiting inside to control me. Forgiveness is an elusive fantasy. something that I could never give. Am I bad person?


    1. No. Sometimes it does take years to let go of a past. I’m still learning and by no means declare to have it all figured out. I think for me the turning point was asking that same question “am I a bad person” and choosing to say no but I’m going to figure out the “why” behind the decisions I’ve made. It’s been a scary journey but I like how strong I am becoming as a result. I can’t change how someone else treated me but I can change how I navigate my choices by learning more about myself as a result of my reaction to them.


      1. Do you think it will ever go away? The hate? The endless loathing? The neef to hurt and retaliate? My heart is so full of resentment, and it’s eating me out from the inside. I just don’t wanna hurt anymore. I don’t wanna pretend anymore. 😦


      2. The turning point for me was when I forced myself to focus inward and constantly remind myself that I can’t expend my energy on someone else’s fate. I drew a line in the sand and said today is a new future and it’s my gift. How will I take care of myself starting now?


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