I must make the disclaimer that none of the letters after my name qualify me to opine on matters of this kind but, as I have done too often in the past, I “rush in where angels fear to tread.” I just feel it is so important for our well-being to have a little bit of this in our make-up. I believe we have to be lucky enough that someone has loved us unconditionally, whether that be a parent, God or a partner. It can arrive from siblings, but siblings are more often competitive than fully loving.
But why is this so important? Because a person who loves us unconditionally is one who is naturally inclined to forgive us for our transgressions. We are hardly likely to get through life without making mistakes. If others we respect are ready to forgive us our trespasses, we are much more likely to forgive ourselves as well. And that, I believe, is a very big deal.
If we can’t forgive ourselves for our mistakes, for our misbehaviours, then we probably don’t like ourselves very much. Indeed, we are probably angry with ourselves most of the time. If it’s true, it shows. Everybody knows the saying, “love thy neighbour as thyself.” If you don’t like yourself, well, look out below!
But suppose you understand that we all make mistakes? Suppose you understand that mistakes are learning opportunities and the great thing is that you can learn to not make the same mistake again. Mistakes are a necessary way to get smarter about organizing your life. You don’t have to beat yourself up about them. Learn your lesson and move on. You are still a person worth loving. And, because you are getting so smart about things, why shouldn’t you appreciate and admire yourself? Your heritage of love gives you strength, self-confidence.
But what if your mistake is unredeemable? Ouch! Those, you just have to live with. And shouldn’t that make you kinder about the mistakes of others, more generous, more forgiving? If you could do such a thing, well, then, it could happen to anybody, couldn’t it? Sure it could! Forgive them as you forgive yourself.
A belief in your essential goodness will aid you when you are confronted with all those essential decisions one has to make in life. How will what I am thinking of doing impact the lives of those I care for? Can I square this action with the kind of person I want to be? Will I still be able to love myself if I do this thing? If not, then I must find another way to accomplish my ends. Loving yourself can mean having that kind of conversation with yourself.
In the past, I often assumed that what advanced my interests would obviously be in the interests of those I cared for, those whose welfare I was responsible for. It was only with the passage of time that I grew to appreciate that I often missed a step in making that calculation. Most decisions turned out well, but some bore costs paid for by others, costs of which I had not the slightest notion. It was only with time that I would appreciate that I had paid a price as well.
In the end, I believe that those of us who have been blessed with a heritage of love are better able to love ourselves and are better equipped to bestow that heritage on others. I think that is a wonderful thing.
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.