Maybe I’m just sappy and sentimental, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my life this past week or two and how much I’ve grown this year as a person. My life has not always been easy, and I’m sure those of you who know me personally know how much I’ve struggled in the past few years. I’ve struggled to find myself. I’ve struggled in my marriage. I’ve struggled in my relationships. I’ve struggled with the ugly “D” word: depression.
Today as I drove to work I felt happy and fulfilled as I reflected back on my year. And I realized the reason I felt happy was because I intentionally chose happiness. As I lay in bed last night, talking to my husband, I said, “I love myself so much. And if you can’t love yourself then you can can’t love anyone else, right?” “Right,” he said. He’s not much of a talker. But I’m sure his mind was thinking something like, here she goes “self-philosophizing Lauren again.” But it’s true. It takes self-love in order to make yourself happy and in order to be able to give back to others.
A couple of days ago I posted on a few boards I’m a member of asking people to state the theme of their year. The answers were insightful, interesting, painful, sad, tragic, funny, happy—all rolled into one. And it made me think about how all of those adjectives describe life and are what make it worth living.
My theme of the year was forgiveness. First I forgave myself. Then I forgave my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and anyone who I have ever perceived as doing me wrong. But it started with ME. I forgave myself for all my faults. I forgave myself for feelings of love I can’t control. I forgave myself for living in the past too often. I forgave myself for yelling at the kids, having a short fuse, not saying no enough, being too busy, not reaching my goals when I wrote, and for failing to clean my bathroom often enough. I forgave myself all those little strings of self-hate that build up inside of us and make us unhappy with ourselves. And it was hard. Self-doubt crept in. Guilt crept in. Sadness lay sickly sweet right below the surface of my skin. It was a process—much like grieving and moving on. I back slid. I fell into depression, but I realized where the depression came from, worked through it, and didn’t let it trap me.
I wrote with a vengeance for the first time in years. I soaked up everything I’ve learned in my meager 36 years and put it on paper. I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I missed old friends. I reconnected with old friends. I grieved relationships whose seasons had expired but found happiness in the temporariness of those relationships as well. And through it all, I realized forgiveness is key. Letting go of the need to control. Losing expectations of others while maintaining expectations of yourself. Making yourself happy and choosing to live in a way that’s giving to other people without feeling the need for reciprocation. Telling myself that I’m doing the best I can and loving myself for it. That was my lesson for 2015.
What is forgiveness you may ask?
Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.
I don’t want to be a victim of myself anymore. I don’t want to blame others for the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to not pursue my dreams because pursuing them is hard. I want to be able to let go of the negativity and stop living in a permanent state of self-hatred. I want to love myself for who I am and realize that flaws are what make us beautiful as humans. I want to love other people, all of their flaws and scars and human-stuff and realize the only person I can control is myself and be okay with that.
This year, I decided to stop feeling guilty for my own feelings. Instead of embracing guilt, hate, and anger this year I chose to embrace love and it changed my whole perspective on life.
If you can’t forgive yourself then you can’t forgive others. We all have baggage. We have all been hurt by the people we’re closest to. We can use hate, guilt, and ugliness to drive stakes into our own hearts, our marriages, the lives of our children, or we can turn it around and be compassionate, loving, and we can give to others even when it’s so hard to do. This is forgiveness.
Live your life with love and you’ll be rewarded with love. Live your life with hate and all you’ll get back is hate.
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