Socrates once boldly said that the unexamined life is not worth living. This is a profound notion, and one that speaks many truths to us today. Living an examined life is important; it’s what spurs on growth! We should be always reflecting on our goals, our priorities, our relationships and the way that we treat others. This kind of self-awareness is what helps us reach our highest potential; it’s a wonderful thing. However, as someone who is constantly examining my own life, I have also found that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way motives and inspires us. It allows us to celebrate our successes but also shows us places for improvement. The wrong way, however, can leave us feeling full of guilt, remorse and regret at the things we have said and done in the past. It is in these moments where learning to forgive ourselves becomes vital.
Forgiveness can be difficult; I don’t know that anyone would argue with that. Learning to forgive and let go when someone has wronged you is one of the harder things we ever learn to do. But there is another kind of forgiveness that is just as difficult, if not more so. This kind of forgiveness is private and personal. This is self-forgiveness, really believing the idea that we are not defined by our failures and mistakes. Let me repeat: You are not defined by your mistakes. This is one of the most important truths to grasp in life, but really understanding and applying it isn’t always easy.
We all have said or done things we are not proud of, often on the daily. It may be something said or done to another, or perhaps an action that you regret. Maybe it’s the way that you view yourself or your body. We all have these secret parts of ourselves that we don’t like to share with others, parts that cause us shame. We have all made mistakes and we all fall short of our potential at times. We all have areas in our lives where we could use a little self-forgiveness. All of us. And if these things are left in the dark than we can easily face the temptation to define ourselves by them, and believe that we are no better than the mistakes that we make. We must learn to have grace on ourselves, and understand that we are so much more than our darkest, deepest regrets and failures. You have so much more worth and value than your mistakes suggest.
The next time you are filled with regret or find that you are being much too hard on yourself, I encourage you to choose grace. I encourage you to choose to believe that these things do not define you. Take a deep breath, think about what you can learn from your mistake and then take that lesson with you, letting the guilt and shame go. Only carry with you that which is truly life giving. The goal is self-awareness, not self-scrutiny or judgment. You don’t have to be perfect and it’s okay to misstep. It’s going to happen, and it’s probably going to happen a lot. We are all human and we are all in this together. So learn to laugh at yourself. Be kind to yourself. Celebrate your successes and wins. Wear your experiences proudly. Extend grace and forgiveness, accept grace and forgiveness, and do so in abundance.
Image via Forever Wondering