I’ve recently started using a happiness app, mainly out of curiosity. Every morning it suggests 3 options to try that might make me happier. I either ignore it or I pick one.
Today (or at least the morning I started drafting this post) the most appealing suggestion was to forgive myself for something, and write a letter to myself about it. But now I’m stumped.
The trouble is there are things I don’t want to forgive myself for. I don’t want to tell myself it’s OK that I didn’t exercise my horse that much this week. (I paid someone to ride once, and he got 15 min of half-hearted lungeing once) because although I had my reasons (first week back at work full-time and the fatigue is unmanageable, also trying to keep control of spending) I feel like if I forgive myself I’m saying it’s OK to do it again next week. And it’s not.
Does this mean I’m doing forgiveness wrong? I’ve heard the saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” and suspect that has some bearing on this although I can’t work out quite what. Am I supposed to be able to forgive myself for this week while still insisting I do better next week? I don’t know if I know how to do that. I’m afraid that if I forgive myself that means I give up my standards.
Examining this, I don’t think I’m a very forgiving person. I will make excuses for others to avoid being upset by them in the first place. I can put myself in someone else’s shoes until the cows come home, but if they step over the line and do or say something I can’t excuse in any circumstance, I withdraw from them and avoid them. Do I ever forgive? I suspect it takes me years to forgive, and usually takes the form of, “Now I understand there were actually extenuating circumstances, so there was an excuse I should have made for you but didn’t at the time” and then I can start to give them a second chance.
Maybe I can apply this to the problem in hand. Maybe I can’t forgive myself for something this week. Maybe I have to forgive a past error. Hmm.
I forgive you for losing the gym-trainers you need for school. I don’t care if you hadn’t outgrown them yet. These things happen. There is no point losing sleep over it. There is no point hiding it. It feels like a great and awful crime and it’s true that your mother would much prefer not to buy you another pair this week, and would ask annoying questions as if you hadn’t spent the last week(s) searching the lost property for them, but at the end of the day she will take you out to replace them without it being a big deal. I forgive you even though I still dream that I’m looking for them sometimes! I forgive you for not telling her for ages, and getting blisters wearing an old pair that were too small. I forgive you for the guilt you felt when you finally did tell her and she didn’t make a fuss and realised you’d hidden it for no good reason for so long. (Was it really that long? I can’t tell from here.)
You probably left them on the bus or dropped them on the way to the bus stop – you were tired and stressed and there was always so much to carry and people leave things on the bus all the time. At least it wasn’t a violin! In your future you will come so close to leaving your best ever, one-of-a-kind violin on a train, and you’ll leave your masters dissertation in a changing room one day. My point is that it’s human to make mistakes and sometimes stuff escapes us. So you lost some nasty plastic footwear? Big deal. Can’t you see how much you achieved recently? Being at school is no picnic academically or socially. How many pieces of homework have you excelled at this term? All of them probably. Except that french thing you did on the bus… When we’re under strain the ordinary stuff sometimes gets out of hand. Literally and figuratively in the case of the trainers. You are doing so well coping with everything but it’s OK not to be perfect all the time. No one expects it. If losing the trainers was the worst thing you did this month, how lucky everyone around you is that you’re not smoking or drinking or grafittiing or cutting. Or kicking puppies or pushing grannies or stealing sweets off babies. And you know what? You’d have grown out of the trainers eventually anyway.