“I should have been a career girl.” My mother said this nearly every day as she carried laundry to the washer, wiped fingerprints off the bathroom mirrors and vacuumed up the bits of grass we tracked in on bare feet. She resented the boss who fired her when she became pregnant and the children who then made it hard to work again. And daily she also reminded herself that in many ways she had only herself to blame.
Imagine that instead of a laundry basket you are carrying a backpack along a path. It’s perhaps the size of the one your child carries to school. In it are memories of every time someone didn’t come through for you, appeared to intentionally hurt you, and didn’t apologize. There are memories of embarrassing times and bad decisions in there, too.
The backpack weighs quite a bit. Each remembered lack of regard for your feelings is a fist-sized rock. Each memory of a bad decision reminds you of what could have been. You are now walking uphill, and the backpack is uncomfortable. Your face is tight and your shoulders are buzzing with pain. A big tree is up ahead. Great! You can take the backpack off for now and leave it behind the tree where no one will notice.
You can almost sprint now, you feel so much lighter. Before long you are at a beautiful overlook. It’s a good thing that you left the backpack behind or you might have been too exhausted even to reach the top. On your way back down, you come upon the backpack and must decide to put it back on–or not. It was so heavy. What if you emptied it out, at least some?
Each rock represents a grudge you may be holding. Carrying a grudge can make it difficult to move ahead in a relationship of any kind, even with yourself. Until you begin to forgive, you may struggle to have the desire to trust, let alone the ability to become open to doing so. You may feel resentful and very challenged to forgive.
Of course, forgiveness is not the same as pretending that a wrong is right, and it can be very challenging since you may need to give up the sense that you have been wronged or cheated, even by yourself. Forgiveness is not automatic. It happens in small stages. You give up your anger and negative judgment about whoever unjustly hurt you. Yes, it was unjust and maybe thoughtless. However, even if you no longer trust them, you can still forgive. And maybe the “other person” is…you.
1) Practice Self-Compassion
Showing compassion and empathy are marks of a good friend. Self-compassion is a way to offer yourself the same care, forgiveness, understanding and encouragement you would offer others. However, this doesn’t mean that you will stop striving to be your very best. Instead, it means you can face disappointments with acceptance, responsibility, and new direction, but without shaming criticism.
2) Forgive ❤️
Have you been carrying grudges you’d do well to forgive? Do you need to apologize to someone else? Maybe yourself? Think about how you would advise a friend with the same challenge. When you think both accurate and kind thoughts about others, you are giving them permission to be imperfectly human.
3) Perform Do-overs Daily
You also deserve this permission to be human. No matter who you need to apologize to, remember that apologies are not just about saving face. They are about repairing relationships, even with yourself. Like many moms, mine found her do-over chance when she had grandchildren. They could generate lots of laundry, touch things with sticky fingers, sit on the nice furniture, and make messes in the kitchen. The exhaustion of grandparenting, however, was equated with success and love.
Parenting is very hard work. The good news? You don’t have to wait to practice self-compassion, to forgive yourself and your family members for being human, and to ask for a do-over. Can we try that again?