The role of self-forgiveness in gratitude

by | May 1, 2012 | Mindset

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April’s gratitude work focused on mercy and atonement, on forgiveness and making amends to others and to oneself. And, as strange as it may sound, it was a tough theme for me to connect with.

I’ve always lived my life with a focus on being regret-free, always doing the right thing and being a generally good and nice person. Yes, I’ve made mistakes … I am human (much to my chagrin … couldn’t I be an elven princess?).

Anyway, it was an interesting month of gratitude work.

Immanual Kant, a philosopher who, according to Monty Python, was a real piss-ant, felt that “ingratitude is the refusal to acknowledge the good, and as a result is a profound moral failure of the human spirit.” In other words, many times our downfall is not recognizing the mercies and good things that are abundant in our lives.

I took the opportunity to really look at those moments in my life where I didn’t live up to my own standards, those times that I failed to do the right thing as I defined it. And I discovered that I had one big regret in my life that I’ve spent the last year beating myself over the head about.

You see, I was married for 12+ years to a less than ideal partner. This is not a recrimination of the man … I still believe that there is a good person in there somewhere, but I didn’t bring it out in him. We were not a good match. And I had plenty of opportunity to walk away.

But I didn’t.

I stayed and took the verbal and emotional abuse of being with the wrong person because I had rules set up in my head that no longer served me. Rules that said I would be a failure if I got a divorce. Rules that said I would be a failure if I didn’t make this marriage work. The problem was … there was no way to fix the marriage. It was unfixable and yet I kept applying bandaid after bandaid after bandaid.

And, as there often is with bad marriages, I had lost sight of myself. I … a normally strong willed, fiercely independent person, had handed over control of my life to someone else.

Thankfully, I attracted some people and situations into my life that helped me pull myself out of that situation. I left him in 2010. Our divorce was final Jan. 3 of this year.

I share this little snapshot into my life because this was what I focused on in April. And I think there is something you can take away for yourself in what I discovered.

One of the homework assignments was thinking about what self-forgiveness work was revealing itself to me. I was asked, “What is it that you are not yet willing to forgive? Can you forgive yourself for that?”

What I came up with was that I had yet to forgive myself for going down the dark rabbit hole and not staying true to my core. For, by giving over my personal power to a less-than-loving man, I ceased to live by my own rules. And I can be quite the stickler for rules!

You see, I kind of avoid conflict. And my marriage became all about doing anything to avoid conflict, including taking who I was and stuffing it inside a little box inside my soul. By the time I left my now ex-husband I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror. I had gained 109 pounds. My voice was higher from stress. I had premature grey hairs (and my hair was thinning). But worse, I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t Carma.

Now, the benefit of going through this experience is that now I can unpack all those parts of me I had hidden away to avoid an argument, take a loving look at them and decide to re-incorporate what I like and retire what no longer serves me. I’ve also learned that its OK to change, update and retire my self-imposed rules.

These are the lessons I discovered during my April “Mercy and Atonement” gratitude work. And I look forward to moving into May’s “The Gift of Grace” work. I hope it proves to be a whole lot easier!

Some Take Aways for You
Where are you giving up control to someone or something in your life or business? Where are you self-flagellating when you could be self-forgiving?

When you do this kind of work, you’ll be amazed at how weights are lifted from your shoulders and your life, your relationships and your business becomes easier, lighter and a whole lot better.

My last update on this year’s gratitude work covered January through March. You can read it here.

If you’d like to join me for a year of gratitude, you can learn more here.

Or, if you’d like to do this gratitude work on your own, you can grab the book at


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