Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Forgiving Yourself

The ironic thing is, when you have a history of causing harm to yourself or others, the negative judgments you throw on yourself only compound the problem. Somehow, we have to move beyond merely critizising past actions, and wipe the slate clean. Such is the human condition: though we think that punishing ourselves will help us "smarten up," the real path to change is to admit and accept our faults. You see in my posts that I have a forgiving approach to human mistakes. I think, for example, that it is quite normal to find certain homeless people annoying, even as a social worker. In fact, until you acknowledge that you find other's behaviour frustrating, you are simply lying to yourself, and perpetuating the cycle. A recent study showed that people lie on average 3 times in a ten minute conversation. Is that ok? I think it has to be ok, if you are planning on getting more honest. People who make bad life choices are ruthless to themselves. They have no problem describing their mistakes in great detail. Sometimes, even those who want to help them will assist them in this destructive self-debasement. I call it the "kid-at-the-back-of-the-class" syndrome: If you feel like the "bad one," you perpetuate that role, and you try to be the best "bad kid" you can be. Furthermore, the teacher expects little of you, and there appears to be no way out.

Of course, the healing begins when we realize that everybody has spent their time at the back of the class in one form or another. We can't erase the facts, but we can forgive ourselves. I am writing this because I am personally struggling with some things I want to change. I still have a lot of judgments about people I help, and my judgments are interfering with my effectiveness. I am being helpful, but I think I can do just a little bit more by giving myself a break about being judgmental. We do the best we can with what we have.