ALICE, GUILT, AND FORGIVENESS

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I feel guilty about a lot of shit. I feel guilty for not helping my sister more when my father was dying and putting her in the position of calling me on it after I had promised I would be there for her. I feel guilty that I didn’t tell my cousin, who jumped to her death, that I loved her the last time we spoke – something I always did at the end of every phone call.  I feel guilty for not having talked to one of my dearest friends in all the world for at least a month before he died, because it was too difficult to  hear him so out of it.  And I even feel guilty about my mother’s misery and depression.  I was a thorn in her side because I wasn’t “normal”.  I thought her sorrow was my fault.  I feel guilty for feeling jealous of certain people in my life, though I never deliberately harmed anyone. I feel guilty for being angry with some friends and family who I thought had wronged me. I have allowed guilt to eat me alive.

And as for forgiveness, I always believed that it was something I had to do for others.  I believed that feeling guilty was my due punishment and that forgiving others would be my redemption.  I thought if I could bring myself to forgive my parents I would feel lighter somehow, released from a kind of prison. But I was wrong. That was part of the equation but not all of it. I have to forgive myself. It’s not anyone else. It’s me.

It’s so hard – self-forgiveness – and for me it’s almost as if my punishment has become so familiar as to be a comfort. I am more comfortable beating myself up with guilt than loving myself with forgiveness.  I don’t believe I deserve my own compassion.  I am so programmed to think that everything is my fault and I struggle with that programming. Is that just one big ego trip? To think I am responsible for others?

If I am honest with myself, the answer has to be yes. I think I am supposed to be better, less given to human frailties than everyone else.  How supremely arrogant! But how do I stop this guilt that is eroding me and embrace the act of self-forgiveness? Don’t I deserve at least that which I feel I owe others?

Forgiving myself is what will save me – finally. Forgiving myself will be my freedom. Forgiving myself will be my self-acceptance. Forgiving myself will mean I have looked in my own eyes and said “You’re okay.”  Isn’t that the real definition of redemption?

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