Moving on means just that – to move beyond, to move past, to not stay in the same place. But I was talking to a classmate this weekend about people who sometimes can’t do that, and how it’s okay to disengage from those people.
What forgiveness means to me is that it’s a process whereby one lets go of negative feelings, to the point where perhaps they don’t re-embrace their offender, but they at least aren’t feeling angry, vengeful, bitter, and are no longer dwelling on the offense.
Self-forgiveness is much the same, except that when it comes to yourself, do you need to go through the process of re-embracing and liking yourself in order to really be able to move on.
I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I spent a long time not liking myself, mostly because for a long time, I was told that I shouldn’t, in both direct and indirect ways. As I got older, I began to realize that it’s okay to be imperfect, it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. It’s even okay to feel bad sometimes, to have regrets, to feel depressed, to cry.
And, eventually, it’s okay to forgive yourself for the things you maybe didn’t do so well, or the times you weren’t your best self.
I think we probably all know that, right?
But here’s a somewhat more controversial statement – it’s okay to forgive yourself, even when others think that you shouldn’t.
This is a recurring theme in my life, but it’s something I’ve become more adept at recognizing so that I can respond in a way that maintains my goals, growth, and self-care. There was a time when I would allow others to draw me back into the past, and get into arguments about what I did, or why I did it. I allowed myself to be put in a position where I was constantly having to justify and re-justify myself, and it was leading me to keep making the same bad choices over and over and over.
Now when I see that happening, when I see someone trying to draw me back into a place where I’m expected to justify myself or apologize yet again for things that I’ve already addressed, I politely let that person know that I’m no longer willing to dwell on the past, or on the particular incident, event, or time period in question.
The reason for this? If someone hasn’t moved past something, if they’re hanging on tightly to that time eight years ago when you said that thing to them, or generally cataloging your faults and bringing them up whenever they feel freshly wounded, then there’s nothing you can say that’s going to help let go of that catalog and see you for who you are right now.
If someone else hasn’t forgiven you, no amount of groveling, shaming, or rehashing is going to help that. Someone who wants to see you grovel is someone who wants to see you feel humiliated – which means that that person is perhaps stuck in a place of bitterness and revenge. And that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you have to go there with them.
If someone still has issues with something you’ve done in the past, that’s a journey that they need to undertake, and there are times when you need to step back and allow them to do that on their own.
And as much as it seems like you should take responsibility for someone else’s feelings – I mean, I am a big proponent of not allowing intent to excuse impact – in this case, the reality is that you shouldn’t.
If you’ve evaluated your life, your actions, learned, made changes, and experienced growth – that’s excellent. If you’ve acknowledged past faults and made a commitment to change, that’s all you can do. And while I know that some people feel like they need the approval and/or forgiveness of others, I personally feel like it’s not essential. The experience of others is just that – it’s their experience, and while you may perhaps have some impact on it, you have no control over it.
I’m not saying don’t apologize or don’t try to make amends. I think those things are important.
But if you find yourself in a situation where no amount of apologizing is enough, where someone wants to constantly bringing up what you’ve done, or if you’re dealing with someone who just wants to throw the past back in your face every time they get mad at you, using it as a weapon…then it may be time to disengage, and allow them to have their experience without it derailing the growth you’ve experienced.
This is, like most things, easier said than done. But believe me when I say that I know from personal experience how ultimately rewarding it is to free yourself of people who will not allow you to evolve as a human being.