Guest column | The subtle art of forgiving yourself

“You have to make a change at the family level, in order to one day be able to see it reflected at the societal level.” These profound words from a colleague made me think that charity begins at home, and home and family begin at home. Thus, in the words of BR Ambedkar, “Cultivation of the mind should be the ultimate goal of human existence.”

As I embark on this mind-cultivating journey, I find that my mistakes and shortcomings continue to torment me. So before I set out on the path to growth, I must first accept and forgive myself. It is only after granting myself this divine gift that I can think of extending it to others. It’s not an easy task, but I mapped out an action plan.

First, when I’m racked with guilt and self-loathing, I talk to myself, like I would to a friend in a similar situation. We are generally more supportive of others than ourselves. Self-talk is an important component of our neuro-linguistic programming, an area aimed at higher well-being and self-actualization. So, I decide not to be hard on myself and to smile broadly every time I look in the mirror.

Second, meditation, even if done infrequently (I call it baby steps that hopefully build up in long strides) reaps the benefits. There are several methods. I take the simplest: sit in a relaxed situation with my eyes closed and let the thoughts pass through my mind. When we watch the sunset or a gushing river, we never say that the sunset should have been redder or less red, and we never criticize the flow of the river water, so why should we pass judgment on our thoughts? I let my thoughts come and go, as they please.

As my father says, “The show must go on.” There will be steps back and steps forward, but continually striving forward is always desirable, despite obstacles and occasional dead ends. Remember the words of Canadian writer Robin Sharma: “We are all here for a reason. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future”. Our past may continue to call us, but our hopes must point forward.

Fourth, try, try and try to understand the reasons for people’s actions. It helps us realize the intentions of others clearly, reducing the risk of injury, conflict, and/or upset. Strained relationships and troubled situations are usually the result of misunderstandings and a lack of communication. So if the fine cords of connecting with others seem strained, loosen them through constructive dialogue. Relieve them with kindness, handshakes and cooperation.

I always remind myself that each person is at a different place in their journey, which means we are all bound to make mistakes. But as long as you try to improve and/or correct your mistakes, you deserve forgiveness. Wouldn’t I want the same for me? It’s only fair that I’m just as kind to others!

All in all, forgiveness is indeed divine, yet difficult. From time to time, it is important to “forgive without forgetting”. And, as is often advised, I will choose to forgive, for my own mental peace. Because it is through inner peace that I will be able to accept forgiveness, as others grant it to me.

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The writer works as Assistant Professor (Psychology) at Rajiv Gandhi Govt College in Saha (Ambala)

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