I would like to share a personal bit of learning I have had.
I recently had the occasion to contemplate forgiveness. I bumped into the complexity of it while struggling with an old issue between my adult son and I. Curiously; at the same time a deep, old shame of my own kept floating to the surface. I found it odd that this 30-year-old memory would come to haunt me at this time in my life. In thinking on this, and wondering at the significance of that shame memory, it occurred to me; like all the highway lights blinking into view one at a time, the dots connected and there it was, my inability to forgive myself. If I can’t forgive myself how can I extend that type of compassion to another?
If I were to create one of those surreal, William Burroughs/David Lynch kind of movies out of this struggle with my son; I would be stuck inside a bell jar... So close, so wanting to forgive, yet some invisible force (invisible to me, not the watcher of the surreal movie) preventing me from making that contact, heart to heart, that would let that forgiveness unfold. I guess the picture would then pan to me in the bell jar, and me outside of it too.
So I recognize fully now, the obstacle is my relationship with my self, with my past, with choices I made as a young and dysfunctional 20 year old and the shame I carry because of them. I can say for absolute sure that is no longer who I am. The adult in me says consider the context of whence you came, what happened then was almost predictable, you've learned, you've grown, you've made much better choices since... And yet the ability to apply compassion to my own story is somehow challenging for me. However, not doing so is no longer sustainable. I cannot abide this as an obstacle to having healthier relationships with my family. So I have a choice to make and frankly it’s an easy one: Forgive myself.
The challenge of forgiving oneself is most probably at the root of a lot of shame-based injuries, probably at the root of a lot of “stuckness”. In the end, what might lead me to forgive myself, is more my need to be able to forgive others, my son for example, and how sad is that? Yet had it not been for this catalyst, I might have opted to carry this stone of shame around inside forever.