A Wish for 2020 Part 2: The Self-Forgiveness Challenge
My post A Wish for 2020 got some reactions.
I explained my wish for 2020 would be that every person over 30 years old would be required to forgive themselves for one specific thing they did or said or a specific shame or guilt they actively carry once a month for an entire year.
12 days (out of 366… 2020 is a leap year) devoted to self-forgiveness. I mean if they have National Carrot Cake Day (February 3) and National Balloon Day ( October 1), why not a day celebrating something important like self-forgiveness?
I received some interesting comments and questions about practicing self-forgiveness and I realized I need to take self-forgiveness further.
I realized self-forgiveness requires self-examination and according to Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
I realized world peace is impossible but reaching personal peace with yourself and the world at large is the closest thing to achieving world peace.
And through my research of suicide, male depression, and substance abuse I realized self-forgiveness is a generally foreign practice yet a vital one for healing, overcoming, and mending the broken human heart.
Like anything worthwhile, self-forgiveness is difficult and requires you knuckle-up, lace-up and get to practice.
I took time, read some books, studied Dr. Everett Worthington’s REACH model of self-forgiveness, and created a 5-step practice plan for us. Years of coaching have taught me that a good practice has a plan, which is necessary to maintain focus, set goals, and keep us working toward success.
Step 1- Set a specific day
Schedule a specific day to forgive yourself. I’m going to take the lead here and declare the 15th of every month will be self-forgiveness day. For those who receive my posts via email, I will send you a reminder on the 15th of each month that your self-forgiveness is due. It will be like paying your mortgage but better.
And since repetition is a part of forgiveness, let’s do it once a month and make self-forgiveness a healthy habit in 2020.
Step 2- Write down 12 things that need to be forgiven
Today, write down 12 things you need to forgive yourself for. Writing down our hurts give them a real, tangible representation. They are not just vapor floating in our heart and mind.
I suggest storing the list on your phone for both permanence and easy access.
Also, be specific about a particular action or thought or feeling that needs forgiveness. If you said, “I want to forgive myself for a bunch of stuff I did in my 20’s”, it’s too abstract, too unclear. Forgiveness only works when it’s concrete. I also suggest writing down an estimated date, location, and a summary of your actions.
Also, let’s be honest, some hurts won’t be forgiven with one day of absolution, so there might be a specific hurt that you may need multiple months of attention. For example, my illness causes deep personal shame that I need to deal with. I’m dedicating 3 months (January, July, December) for forgiving my shame.
Step 3- Take time for self-examination
On the 15th of the month, find some interrupted time to think deeply about the specific hurt that needs forgiveness.
Pray, meditate, have a cup of tea and reflect on one specific hurt that needs forgiving.
Begin your reflection with:
I forgive you for__________. I will not seek revenge or revert to self-pity for my past hurts. I will accept myself as imperfect. Yet despite my imperfections, I realize I am valuable, capable of great things, and deserving of happiness.
Recall or write down the details of the event.
Recall or write down negative emotions the event caused you to feel.
Realize or write down a positive positive attitudes/realizations the event has gifted you.
Reframe your hurt. Though you can’t rewind time, you can use your hurt has a means of broadening your perspective and deepening your gratitude. Think or write down how the hurt presented you unique lessons and opportunities that you might use to help other people deal with their own hurt.
Step 4- Honor the private act of self-forgiveness
Keep it to yourself. Self-forgiveness is a deeply private exercise. Do not gloat. Do not post on Facebook. Do not not look for likes or outside validation. Forgiveness requires humility. Some people will not get what you’re doing. That’s okay. This is just for you.
Step 5- Do something nice for someone else
On the 15th of every month (our self-forgiveness day) do something nice for someone else. This can be offering a compliment to someone, write a thank-you note, buy a stranger coffee, give a homeless person a meal, donate to a local charity, etc. The point is–doing something nice for someone else is both healthy for us and others. Celebrate your improvement by taking action and improving someone else’s life.
You can make the world a better place for your family, friends, and anyone you interact with if you practice self-forgiveness.
This is important--forgiving yourself can be tricky business. Forgiveness is not a quick fix and there is no one-size-fits all solution.
If you forgive yourself for cheating on the taxes your forgiveness doesn’t exonerate you from punishment. And forgiving yourself doesn’t make it okay. This do-it-yourself absolution can be reckless. The point is–if we want to positively improve and grow we have to make peace with our past. We must forgive our past actions in order to accept who we are now.
I’m finally starting to figure you out ( and not in a creepy way)…
I began this blog in July 2015.
My first post was about how verb choice can make you a better writer. Almost 5 years later I learned that becoming a better person is more important than becoming a better writer.
Improving my writing skills is just a byproduct of this blog.
Over those 5 years I’ve also started to learn about the people who read my blog and why they read my blog.
For most hours of the day I’m a suburban dad working and raising my children. I’m an everyman. Nothing fancy. I coach soccer, watch football, drink beers with my buddies, make dinner for my family, and fall asleep on the couch.
But here, on this blog, I’m attempting to experience and communicate authentic emotion that I sometimes struggle to find in real life. I’m attempting to uncover the feelings and mysteries that rattle below the everyday parts of myself.
And I believe that’s why you’re here.
Not out of obligation or because my mom asked you to, but because you’re curious. You wrestle with the same questions I do in my private heart and mind:
How can I find and sustain happiness?
How can I let go of my anxieties and frustrations and learn to appreciate the positive things in my life?
How can I use my setbacks and struggles as sources of empowerment?
How can I avoid living a life of guilt, regret, and shame?
How can I be a better spouse, parent, and friend?
How can I forgive myself?
Daily life comes at a cost. And that cost is we ignore our important personal questions while attending trivial daily matters.
But what if we made matters of the heart and mind a daily matter?
5 years of writing and I now believe people read this blog for the companionship and perspective that they want more in “real” life. You didn’t come here for verb choice tips, or crock pot recipes, or “when traveling abroad” advice, or cat pictures, or my witty take on the latest episode of The Bachelor. You came here because you want to hear something you didn’t hear today, in everyday life.
You came here because you know there is someone out there who feels like you feel do, which is both comforting and reassuring.
Between going to work and running errands, between changing diapers and paying the electric bill–everyday life amplifies a static, a white noise.
And if adult life is like tuning a radio dial, for you and I, this blog might be a station that comes in clear and satisfies our search for something enjoyable and meaningful to get us through the night.
Our landscape may be different but our journeys are similar and we’re each other’s companions, bound to travel this life together.
A Better You in 2020…
With a new year comes resolutions to be better. Yet research has shown 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the end of January. Before Valentine’s Day we often fall back to our old ways and doing so we often harbor anger, resentment, wonder why things are not getting better for us and resign ourselves to believe that negativity is our destiny.
So let’s begin with self-forgiveness. Let’s stop looking outside for happiness. Let’s turn inward. Let’s start with us.
In our Instagram world, there is such intense public pressure to look and feel a certain way. So much of our anxiety is caused by many things we can not control. However, the one thing we can control is ourselves– our reactions, our self-care.
Since I posted A Wish for 2020, people have expressed interest in self-forgiveness and participating with me, a suburban soccer dad, in a once-a-month practice of self-forgiveness. This challenge will help you focus on the things in your control so we can work toward becoming the best version of ourselves.
And since forgiveness loves company ( see what I did there), if you know someone who would be interested in participating with us, please share this post so they can sign up below. ( If you already receive my blog via email you don’t need to sign up again.)
I will send you monthly reminders, thought-provoking questions you can use in your practice, helpful strategies I learned along the way–along with my usual weekly posts.
It would be awesome to get as many people involved as possible, so together, we can do our part to make this world a better place.