So you know a lot about me and my life. Some of you may even remember that I have a son. He is 25 now. Like me, he thinks too much for his own good. Like me, and a huge percentage of the world, he has a false narrative about himself. And, like me, he finds it very difficult to show himself grace.
\ ˈgrās \
Definition of grace:
1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
2b: archaic: Mercy, Pardon
2d: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
2e: a temporary exemption: Reprieve
Yes, I cherry-picked the definitions I wanted, the ones most relevant to this post. It comes from Merriam-Webster. You see, most people do not know what forgiveness is, and they especially do not understand how to give it to themselves. Our human brains want to focus on the negatives because if we are hyper-aware of the negatives about our lives and circumstances, then maybe we can fix them, and survive longer. It is the oldest part of our brains, the reptilian-brain programming, making some of us miserable, all because our brains, our bodies want to go on living, no matter what.
I am NOT saying my son is unhappy, miserable, or suffering from a mental illness. I am just saying he is human, doing what humans do. And, at 25, he has been watching his friends move into stages of their lives that he has not yet reached, specifically: marriages, houses, and babies. We older individuals understand that is, in the long run, perhaps, a lucky thing for him. He has more time for doing the things he wants to do before putting his personal needs and desires to the side for a partner and an eventual family. He may have greater success at being a parent and a partner. And, as his mother, I certainly want him to have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted family life. I want his children to have a better childhood than he had, and that I had, and that my mother before me had.
But to him, he sees everyone around him as “succeeding,” while he views himself as being “behind on life” — his words, not mine. And it does cause him anxiety. It sometimes makes him question why he has not yet found a partner because he mistakenly believes he is uniquely situated. And likely that is my fault.
I have always felt that I was uniquely unloveable and undeserving and, as a consequence, the world kept proving me correct, at least to my mind. I was a terrible role model in that sense, and I see him slowly turning in that same direction. The direction I turned and the direction my mother turned before me — some would call it a “legacy,” others would harken it to “sins of the father,” while still others debate nature vs. nurture, environmental vs. societal, and then you’ve also got the chemical, nutritional, heredity debate raging on. No matter the causation, it is something that can be worked on and improved. And my son does understand that.
He doesn’t let any of that push him down, destroy him or his future. Not yet at least. He uses it as a motivator for change. He is constantly trying to better himself. He works hard. He plays hard. And he studies… everything. He challenges himself to grow and he embraces life to the fullest. He is working hard to create a path to the life he wants, and when the time is right he will find the right woman for him. He plays hard, which is good because once he marries and has kids, he likely won’t have the time, energy, or money to do so.
I have so much pride for who he is, and when given a chance I try to share with him those things that I see that make him uniquely special, the things about him (not what he does but who he is) that I respect so much. I don’t know, maybe that’s wrong too. I just want him to see himself as I see him, and like others experience him. Do you know what I mean?
Anyway, being grown-up is hard. Being a parent is harder. And I just want every one of you to know, wherever you are emotionally in your life, right now, it is okay. Show yourself some grace. Forgive yourself for the things that make you hate yourself. What you carry is likely false shame* not true shame. And you do not deserve to do that to yourself, regardless of your past, regardless of what anyone tells you (including yourself!), just as my son does not deserve to do it to himself. Each day, if only for a moment, try to step out of fear and into courage. God made us for love not hate and he doesn’t want us to hate ourselves. God loves us despite our flaws and despite our sins. He shows us grace every single day, forgiving our sins even though we do not deserve it.
Remember, forgiveness is something that we do for ourselves, not for those that hurt us. Once you understand that as the truth and begin putting it into practice, you will be so much happier with your life because you will understand that you are special, you are deserving, and you are capable of being happy. And so you will be!
And, as an added benefit, you’ll be able to teach your sons and your daughters to do it as well. And what a gift that will be, ending a legacy of self-incrimination, teaching our beloved children to have understanding, patience, and grace for themselves as well as others, effectively breaking the chains of the past, the family legacies, the “sins of the fathers,” and creating an environment where our children get to begin anew, with a fresh pallet, a new storyline that they can pass down to future descendants! I wish I’d grown up with that and even more than that, I wish my son had grown up with that. I wish I’d understood all of this decades sooner, not for me but for him.2
I forgive myself. Now, hopefully, as I am growing to practice love and forgiveness in my own life, he will see the changes in me and learn it for himself. I hope you’ll do the same. Again, we forgive for our own peace and well-being. So don’t fight it. Work on it, for one incident by the one person that means the most to you (it doesn’t have to be a big incident,) every single day, until, at last, a day will come and you’ll realize you did it! You forgave that grievance made against you. They do not even have to know, because it is NOT about them, it is about You!
2Doesn’t it always seem easier to do things for others than to do them for ourselves!
* Shame and guilt are NOT the same thing. Guilt is a feeling for an action that has been taken. Shame is a feeling about who you perceive yourself to be, true or not. For more information and understanding about the two emotions please see the excellent article on the Psychology Today online magazine’s website by Dr. Joseph Burgo entitled: The Difference Between Guilt and Shame.
***** NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR*****
Though he likely will never see it, this post is dedicated to my inspiring, beloved son, DBL. You’re gonna be a star, baby, all you gotta do is POP!
The wonderful photograph used to create the meme was taken by Amir Geshani and the featured photo was taken by Angel Origgi, both were acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!
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