Have you ever felt that you have been wronged? Obvious question, right? We've all been wronged in one way or another. We've had our heart broken by someone who cheated on us or who wasn't who they said they were. We've had business failures, and we've had violent crimes happen to us. Being wrong can run the whole gamut of injustices.
So how do you move past it? How do you not only forgive the other person but also forgive yourself for your part in it, without judging yourself harshly? I believe the worst thing you can say about overcoming hurt is that time heals all wounds, because it doesn't. It's forgiveness that heals all wounds. If you think the passage of time will take care of something, it won't; the thing is just buried deep in the unconscious. As Carl Jung believed, "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." To paraphrase, what you have not dealt with in your life will always ﬁnd a way to play itself out; it will become your fate.
At some point you have to move into a place of learning how to do forgiveness at the deepest level. If you don't, you will act on, and act out, the judgments you make about yourself and how you handled, or didn't handle, being wronged.
Liz Securro knows ﬁrst-hand the consequences of self-judgment and the rewards of self-forgiveness. In her recent book, "Crash Into Me: A Survivor's Search for Justice," Liz shares her story that spanned 20-plus years and stemmed from a rape she endured in college. You do not have to relate to the magnitude of her circumstances to be able to learn from her journey of self-forgiveness.
When you don't forgive yourself, what's the alternative? For Liz the damage was done to her by the rape, and then she did further damage to herself. She had an eating disorder, she was binge drinking, and she was cutting herself to feel again. She was acting out. She married a guy who on paper was wonderful, but he was just a safe person to be with. That marriage quickly blew up. She moved on with a career, but she never really had the big career she wanted. In her words, she was living a less-than life.
It wasn't until she started dealing with the much deeper issues that she was able to regain herself. At some point it stopped for her. She took the clothes she had, and she burned them in a cemetery. She was tired of being the victim. What she realized was that although something was done to her, what she did to herself was far worse. She was judging herself for her behaviors. Her life really took hold when she was able to forgive herself for all those things that she did, which none of us would have ever judged her for.
She said that had someone else endured what she'd been through and they were acting out in the same ways, she would never judge them. She wouldn't judge or blame them, but she was harshly judging herself. Her actions were speaking for her thoughts. "I am not worthy. What did I do? This happened to me for a reason I caused." Instead of focusing on what she believed were her own weaknesses, she asked better questions of herself. "Why I am binge drinking? Why am I having this relationship to food?" She had to look at all those areas in her life and answer the questions with compassion, much like she would if a friend were going through it.
Not only was Liz raped, but she was blindsided. One spring day, 21 years after the assault, she received a letter in her mailbox from her rapist. He was making amends as part of a 12-step program for alcoholism, and he was asking her for forgiveness. Her initial thought was that she had forgiven him a long time ago. But had she really forgiven?
At the time of receiving the letter, she had one child, and she knew that she was making herself happy and joyful to be a good mother and raise a happy child. She knew she was faking it until she made it. She had this child that she had to be a great mother to, and she had a husband that she had to be a wife to, and she had a career that she had to be responsible to. She knew stuff was going on inside her and that there was still some healing to do. Her fate was to receive this letter when she was heading out on holiday. She was forced to deal with it. She sat on the letter for a while. As she found out more surprising details surrounding the rape, she knew that she couldn't let it go. Her state of Virginia did not have a statute of limitations on rape, so she sought legal action.
Her decision to prosecute was huge and not without risks. As if what happened to her wasn't hard enough, she was questioned why she just couldn't let this all go. After all, if she had forgiven him, why the need to prosecute? Clearly forgiveness is not without risks. If you undertake personal forgiveness, or forgiveness of another person, there is a chance that you will be hurt in the process. Are you going to regain yourself and take some risks, or are you going to live a less-than life? The proof is in the pudding when you don't. It will always be that way.
As Liz shared with me, "The reason forgiveness isn't easy is that our happiness isn't handed to us." She understood that for you to move into forgiveness, you have to relive whatever the situations are that you are judging. Most people don't really look it right in the face and say, "What happened here? Have I been judging myself as a result of what happened to me? Are there decisions I made about myself as a result of what happened that I need to stop and look and let go of? Was I in anyway culpable?" When you do this, it is essential that you do it through loving eyes. And if you ﬁnd that you hold some of the responsibility, that doesn't mean that you have to punish yourself. Self-forgiveness can be as easy as saying to yourself a simple statement like, "I forgive myself for judging myself as less than perfect" (or ﬁll in the statement that most aligns with your feelings).
For Liz it was not an overnight process; it was a personal journey that she had to go on. As a result, it really changed and enriched her life. It helped her become who she is today, and you can read the fascinating details of her story, her journey and her new life in her book, "Crash Into Me: A Survivor's Search for Justice."
If you see any of yourself in Liz's story, or if you feel that you are still hanging on to pain from the past, I encourage you to participate in the Forgiveness Project and join others in the conversation. Please write a comment below, share on our Facebook page or send me a personal message at HeideBanks@aol.com.