Learning to forgive yourself…everyday
THE FORGIVENESS JOURNEY: On the 15th of every month I publish a post about forgiveness. This is the 9th post in my yearlong attempt to learn about and institute practices of forgiveness in my own life. I’m not a forgiveness expert. I’m a novice learning as I go. The objective of these posts is to share my learned lessons with you.
Last week I was asked to join a Zoom call with Pennsylvania Senators to discuss funding for ataxia research as well as attempt to persuade enough politicians to support a resolution that would declare September 25th, National Ataxia Awareness Day.
I was given 7 days to prepare a 4-6 minute presentation.
I didn’t prepare.
Life got busy. Soccer season began. Fantasy football season began. I spent long hours researching crock-pot dinners. Cindy and I started a new, albeit remote, school year and the kids physically went back to a socially distant school.
I know, I know…busyness is no excuse and I should’ve taken this honor more seriously.
As the moderator, a lovely woman from New York makes introductions, I, like a student cheating on a test, hold my phone below the table and Google search, “How many Americans have ataxia?
Before I can steal my research, the moderator calls my name. I drop the phone on the floor and I stare at the computer screen with a pair of guilty blue eyes.
“Jay, can you please tell your story?”
I clear my throat.
“Yeah…hi. Um…My name is Jay Armstrong and 7 years ago….the it hit the fan…”
And then, with no script and no last-minute research, I compare having ataxia to having a belly and brain full of beer and how your legs and arms and tongue and eyes lose coordination and control like when you’re drunk. I don’t really remember much of what I said but somehow I did manage to make a case why September 25th should be National Ataxia Awareness Day, however I do remember one of the last things I said:
“I have to forgive myself everyday.”
The moderator and the politicians thank me for sharing my story, and I scribble down my impromptu declaration.
You don’t need me to tell you this: life is hard. And living becomes exponentially harder if you fail to forgive yourself for the things you’ve done or the things you failed to do.
If we fail to forgive ourselves, we fail to offer ourselves compassion. This failure often ignites the dangerous habit of dehumanizing ourselves and see ourselves not worthy of love.
9 months into my Forgiveness Journey I’ve come to believe this: Self improvement begins with self-forgiveness. And forgiveness is a daily practice.
If you want to improve– you must do the difficult work of finding peace with your imperfections.
This week, as school resumes for many students and teachers, I read something a fellow teacher wrote, “This school year is a case of trial and opportunities.”
I like that. Not trial and error. But trial and opportunities. Opportunities to grow and learn and improve. We make mistakes and bad decisions. We hurt people’s feelings. We fail tests, oversleep, miss appointments, forget birthdays, forget to apologize, forget to turn on the crock-pot, live with diseases, and fail to prepare for presentations. For many of us, these situations stir anger and disappointment. They often cause unhealthy servings of self-punishment and pessimism. But what if we saw these hard situations as opportunities to forgive ourselves and begin again?
Maybe we should realize every mistake, every misstep, every failure– everyday– is an opportunity to start again. As if everyday is the first day of school. Brimming with back-to-school hope and optimism.
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