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Wendy Green

The Poison of Guilt – The Antidote of Self-forgiveness

Pepper morning

I am sitting here this morning, bundled up in my warm robe and socks, with Pepper curled up on my lap, thinking about what I want to blog about this week.

Today I am thinking about Courage and Guilt and Self-Forgiveness. A lot of emphasis and study is placed on forgiving others, and that is important. There is a powerful saying about holding onto anger. It says, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” That is how destructive anger can be to us.

But what if we hold onto anger and guilt with ourselves for things we have done, mistakes we have made. That poison continues to live in our bodies.

Writing in my journal this morning, I have been reviewing some of the choices I made as a single Mom. We moved around … a lot! I made some poor choices in boyfriends. These choices were difficult for my children. At the time, I did not see it that way. I thought I was making choices that would be good for all of us and my children always came first in my mind.

I also made some good choices that benefited my children and luckily, they are doing well, with beautiful families of their own. But as adults they have let me know how difficult some of the early experiences of divorce, and the moves, created some of the instability they felt. This has been difficult for me to reconcile.

I believed then, and believe to this day, that the health and happiness and loving care for my children was my first priority. To know that there were things that happened in their childhood, because of my choices, that did not serve that purpose makes me sad and can stimulate feelings of guilt within me.

And this is where courage and self-forgiveness come in. I first have to face the choices I made, courageously and objectively, without justifying why I made the choices. I must face the impact they had on my children, not the reasons I had for making the choices. I find this challenging. When I start to think about one of the changes that occurred in our lives because of a choice I made, I start to rationalize it in my mind. It takes effort, and a willingness to accept the impact on my children to keep my focus on their experience, not mine. I want to honor their feelings. I can’t change the past, but I can offer myself forgiveness. And I can offer them my love and empathy for their feelings.

Reinforce the idea of Courage, Self-forgiveness, Love and Empathy

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Courage and Self-Forgiveness. Instead of holding on to the poison of guilt, self-forgiveness is like drinking in love, compassion, and respect … for myself and for my children.

Where can you practice self-forgiveness today?

6 Responses

  1. I have to believe that is very healthy to have these conversations with your/our adult children. Wondering if they were/are initiated intentionally or by ‘accident,’ and by whom.

    1. Doris, the real conversations happened by accident and sometimes with anger attached. They were not comfortable, but they certainly brought an awareness that I needed to have.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story Wendy. I empathize with your struggles. Awareness is the first step to changing a behavior and forgiving a past action is also important because it can no longer be changed. I used to want to correct the past somehow, and was very hard on myself. I came to realize after a long while that it was fruitless, and was stuck there and needed to move forward and learn from it. It made me stronger and more resilient. I started focusing on the present and how to feel good day to day. Journaling is very helpful and still do so today as well since I get to look at things of the day and plan for the next. We did the best we could with what we knew at the time, and forgiveness of self helps to move forward and grow.

  3. Thank you for sharing vulnerably here. This resonates and is a journey I have been on as well, from the opposite side with my folks and with siblings.

  4. I am a woman who follows the Tao – that Eastern philosophy which teaches us we are one with the Universe. One of the principles explains that “stuff happens” (my wording, not the formal wording) and in understanding that we must accept and acknowledge those twists and turns along our paths. Once we acknowledge we can work with what is presented to us. And then we heal. Wendy, your writing and life’s philosophy is authentic and touches us all. I am so pleased to see the comments written this morning for it shows that many of us are headed in the right direction (again my assessment) as we travel through our lives.

  5. I loved this, Wendy! I think maybe we may have been together on some of those occasions. Maybe I can get my son to open up about some of this too.
    Love you and so proud you are doing this!

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