Few realize how damaging to the soul is unforgiveness. Like a black hole, it will not admit, but sucks away any light or love. Where there is unforgiveness, there is a hardening of the heart. Hardness of heart leads to a self-imposed prison, and an inability to experience true freedom or joy. Unforgiving people are unhappy people.
If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot love yourself. Likewise, if you cannot forgive another, you cannot love that person, not from the heart, even if you should act loving toward that person.
Forgiveness is the province of the Most High. It springs from the highest in us; it reveals humanity at its best. Forgiveness brings with it a brand new chance for reconciliation, regrowth and restoration. If that’s not God-like, I don’t know what is.
What stops you from forgiving yourself? Family of origin issues? Guilt, disgust, even hatred toward, if not yourself, then toward something you have done? Perhaps you refuse to forgive yourself because you covertly think you haven’t suffered enough. Possibly you have made a seemingly irreversible decision that you are not a “good” person, not lovable, certainly not if people really knew what was inside you, or what your personal history included.
The truth is, you can only love yourself to the extent that you love that which you least like about yourself. If you say you love “parts” of yourself, you are not really loving yourself in total, warts and wanderings and all. Self-love must include unconditional self-acceptance. As I’ve written:
“Accepting yourself is the most difficult act of faith. Yet until you have, you will not find yourself. For self comes out from its cloister only in the light of affirmation.
“And you will never comprehend yourself. You may but choose whether or not to become who you already are. You will know when you are truly you, for a question you don’t remember asking will be answered, and the sense of self will fill you.”
Unforgiveness toward yourself is connected with unforgiveness toward others. It’s a kind of “chicken and egg” regarding which comes first, but where there is the one, generally there is also the other. Sometimes you don’t forgive yourself simply because you refuse to forgive others – yet you secretly disdain your unforgiving ways. Think about how your being unforgiving toward yourself is interwoven with being unforgiving toward others.
Ask yourself whom you have not yet forgiven, and why. Then ask yourself what they would have to do for you to forgive. If they are deceased, turn them over to God. If they are alive but unwilling to admit their wrongs, protect yourself and turn them over to the Ultimate Judge. Above all, let go of the weight of unforgiveness.
Imagine a vast mountain, containing a deep and hidden cave. Picture yourself on that mountain and enter that cave in spirit, bringing all manner of unforgiveness with you, all memories of persons and events which caused you pain. As best you can, place all your unforgiveness there on the cave floor. You can always come back to retrieve, if you choose. But you can leave that cave forever, and re-emerge into the crisp, pure mountain air, rich in new beginnings. You can again love yourself and others.