“The kindest and most compassionate thing you can do for yourself and others is to forgive yourself’ – Anonymous
Forgiving yourself, as I discovered in my journey is harder to approach and complete than forgiving people that have caused you harm. However, you cannot attain true peace without forgiving yourself. Where forgiveness heals the harm another has caused, self-forgiveness releases and can atone for the harm we have caused. Resentment, hatred, anger, and revenge can be released through the forgiveness of others while the act of self-forgiveness releases guilt, shame, and self-hatred. At some level, we have all caused harm to ourselves and others, often to the people closest to us. By saying things we do not mean, using harsh tones, passive-aggressive behaviors, and even full-fledged aggression—we have all experienced different levels of harmful behavior. It is important to seriously address self-forgiveness to find peace, happiness and increase our spiritual resiliency.
Let me share that while writing the last book of my trilogy From Fulfillment to Peace (which was completed late 2010), I continuously got a download in my meditation that the book was not ready for publication. As an avid meditation practitioner, I trustfully rely on the insight and answers that I glean from self-inquiry and stillness. After six months of intense inquiry in my meditations as to “why is the book not ready?” I finally got the insight that it lacked a chapter on self-forgiveness. I have thus dedicated a complete chapter on the process I used to look at my own deep regrets and guilt. It did not take too long before I started to see my own foibles, mistakes, unresolved past, and “stuff.” It was finally published in 2011 and is available on my website as well as those of other book vendors.
When we harm somebody, it can become a festering wound within us. Our minds and hearts are often occupied 24/7 because of the guilt of unresolved harm that we caused another. And as Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World, “Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most understandable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way to getting clean.”
To be transparent, one of my hardest guilty thoughts was I did not spend more time with Tariq. Being divorced and living in three different cities, I was not in their day-to-day lives. Luckily, I talked with my children twice a week, saw them four times a year and spent summer vacations with them regularly. Six months before he died I sponsored a trip to Kenya where he went with his sister and mother. He sent me a card from Kenya saying “Dad, I wish you here.” I could have gone on that trip. Looking over this unbearable lost experience, I went a very long time feeling guilty that I had not spent a lot of time with Tariq in his short 20 years with us. It took a long time for me to come to grips with the painful reality of losing my son.
The way I was able to come to start to achieve peace was first to forgive the boy who killed my son. Later, I reached out to him and his grandfather to create a foundation in Tariq’s name that would help other children be free from a life of violence and gangs. But there was one more step I had to take in order to be truly free and to find peace. And that step was … to forgive me! Here are the 4 steps I personally took to forgive myself and how you can forgive yourself:
Take responsibility for your actions.
Offer a strong and sincere statement of remorse, regret or apology. Ask for the other person’s forgiveness.
Make a commitment that you have changed that behavior forever and give someone the permission to call you out on it if you go back to the old behavior.
Support another person in making a similar, empowering choice or stop at least one other person from making the same mistake.
Today, as I speak worldwide through the work of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, I repeat his name many times a day and strongly feel his presence when I am speaking to students. Always, before I go on stage I ask, “Tariq, are you ready?” In other words, I spend time with Tariq in my thoughts and meditations to make up for the time I did not share when he was with us in a physical form. That reminds me of a touching comment by Yoko Ono – when a journalist asked her, “John’s death must be very hard for you because the two of you were together 90% of the time?” Her response was, “Now we are together 100% of the time.”
So, I encourage you NOT to live in guilt – at the spiritual level your spirit is pure, innocent and perfect and already forgives you! So free yourself from guilt – it is doable and possible.
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