Recently I’ve pushed through my writer’s block and published an article called ‘A New Chapter’. In it, I’ve described how I reached a crossroad in my life. I found myself at a turning point. I was in desperate need of a new beginning, a new chapter. If you haven’t read the article yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.
No matter where you are in life. No matter what you’re going through. At some point, you too will find yourself in need of a fresh start, a new beginning. But in order to start over, in order to be rebuild from dust to something completely new, we first must heal. We must forgive. Sometimes you need to forgive others for wronging you, and sometimes you need to forgive yourself for hurting others. Even if that person that you’ve hurt isn’t ready or willing to forgive you, you will still need to forgive yourself. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve hurt people who cared about me deeply, and I’ve had people hurt me.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what hurts more; hurting someone you love or being hurt by the person you love. They both hurt in their own way. In a perfect world we would all love each other and never hurt one another. But unfortunately, we do not live in such world. We live in a broken world and we have to realize that we will hurt people who we care about.
When I was in high school, I thought everyone was perfect and everyone was so pure. I lived in this fantasy world where I believed no wrong-doing could be done. I also dated this girl who, well, she didn’t exactly inspire innocence. But she was great. Until she wasn’t. She did something that crushed me. Well at 15 years-old you don’t really know how to deal with that. After all, you’re just a kid. So I did what any other 15-year-old boy would do, I tried to pretend it didn’t happen and just sort of moved on. The relationship ended and I grew older. But something happened after that. That purity inside me, that innocence, well that kind of ended too. I didn’t realize it back then, but it happened.
Fast forward a couple of years and there I was; in a more mature relationship. And it happened to me again, I was betrayed once more by the person I loved so much at the time. I never felt such heartbreak. It was soul crushing. I really struggled with moving on. But somehow, someway I did. And I even managed to forgive that person who hurt me so deeply. I managed to overcome my hatred for this person. And I learned to love again. And trust me from personal experience; loving is so much better than hating. Anger, hatred and resentment suck the life out of you. Love, compassion and forgiveness bring you back to life.
So as you can see, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of heartbreak. And unfortunately, I’ve also been the one to hurt people I love. It’s ironic really. We know how much it hurts to be betrayed by someone we love, yet there are times where we’ve done the exact same thing to others we deeply care for. We all make mistakes. I know I’m not proud of them. I know the woman who hurt me years ago isn’t proud of what she did either.
It was a mistake, it happened, we healed, I forgave, and we moved past it. That’s how it has to be. You can’t just act like the mistake didn’t happen. But you also can’t hold onto the mistake and let it dictate your life and every action moving forward. You have to forgive yourself for making the mistake. Forgive yourself for failing that test that you studied so hard for. Forgive yourself for losing touch with friends whose interests no longer align with yours. Forgive yourself for failed relationships, even if you were the cause.
Forgive yourself for being flawed, for being weak, for having bad judgment. Forgive yourself for being human. And I know what you’re thinking right now; “Gee Marvin, forgiving yourself sounds a lot easier when you’re the one who made the mistake.” That simply isn’t true. You think forgiving yourself is easy when you’re the cause for pain? You think forgiving yourself is easy when you wronged someone? It isn’t. When you truly are remorseful about your mistake, that mistake sticks to you. Like a smell you can’t get out of your hair. A stain you can’t get out of your favorite t-shirt. You can’t wash it off, you can’t erase it. You can’t just sweep it under the rug. It becomes part of you. And it’ll consume you, if you let it.
Do you think forgiving yourself for a mistake you made is easy? Well ask a drunk driver who fell asleep behind the wheel. Ask that person who ran a red light by accident. Ask the guy who lost the woman he loved because of a mistake. Mistakes, regardless of who made them, are never easy to overcome. But you have to in order to start your new chapter. You have to in order to live again.
Someone told me a few days ago:” Marvin, just because you cannot forget the past, doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it.” Doesn’t that hit close to home? I know it did for me.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my local church and I had the pleasure of listening to a guest speaker. A pastor from a different church up north. And throughout the night he talked about the past and mistakes we may have done. And you know what he said? He said: “Don’t ever feel guilty over the mistakes that you have made in the past. Because guilt has a way of holding on to you and pulling you back. If you feel guilty about something, you will always do it again”.
Wow. That message stuck with me.
I am urging you not to feel guilty for your past mistakes. They may be terrible, and you may have done awful things. But you need to let go of your past mistakes and not let them define who you are. They do not have to dictate your future. Accept what happened, know where you went wrong, and let it go. A lot of times when we do others wrong, we desperately want their forgiveness, we want them to forgive us for our mistakes. Here we are, just done hurting them and the first thing we expect from them is to forgive US? Isn’t that crazy. The truth is. They don’t owe you a damn thing. They don’t need to forgive you. They don’t have to accept your apology. They don’t even need to listen to your reason.
And now you’re telling me:” But Marvin, how can I move on to my new chapter in life if the person I wronged can’t even forgive me”? And I have a harsh but true answer for you; you don’t need their forgiveness. Yes you read that correct. If you wait for every person you wronged in your life, until they forgive you, you will be waiting for a very long time. So what? Just because they can’t or won’t forgive you, your life all of a sudden stops? You give up everything and just lay down on the floor until they change their mind? No of course not.
When we ask others for forgiveness, we really do it to make us feel better. To help us wash the guilt off of us. Because well, if they forgive us then the work is completed. I don’t have to do anything else anymore because hey; they already forgave me. So what’s the point in trying to become better? See, the whole reason why you're seeking forgiveness is because you’re remorseful. You never want to make that mistake again. In order to avoid making the mistake again, you need to better yourself.
That is why you don’t seek forgiveness from people who you wronged. You seek forgiveness from God, because he will always be ready to accept your flaws and mistakes. He will not only forgive you, but more important than that, he will guide you in becoming better and help you not do the same mistake again. He will help you overcome your sins. He will heal you, rebuild you and make you stronger. You don’t need to beg for his forgiveness. You only have to seek it.
So I urge you to forgive yourself for your past mistakes. Let go of the guilt, let go of the old you. And work towards being the person that you can be, for yourself.