Today’s life lesson while editing my novel: Forgive oneself…
We often preach that it is noble to give other people second-chances. I believe this myself, that in most cases people should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves. However, I’ve noticed that it is considered particularly unsavory to give oneself another go. Instead we see that as failure, commence the torture rituals, and then try to find a nice safe place to bury all the evidence. We either brow beat ourselves for the things we aren’t proud of, or we cower from them.
I used to think embarrassment was the reason, and it is to an extent. However, to a much greater extent, it’s pride. We are raised to yes, give others the benefit of the doubt, but in our own situations, to never EVER forgive ourselves for short-comings. That’s the meat of it too…the forgiveness aspect. As self-respected Southerners we are sentenced to wallow in our own wrongs, then hide it from others, and under no circumstances whatsoever, let ourselves by with it that once. I am not saying to go into a situation knowing you are going to commit a fallacy of some sort, then let yourself by with it. I am saying we cannot grow or find happiness unless we give the past up, yet walk down the same roads with a different attitude. The hard part is trusting ourselves to walk them right this time even though we don’t think we deserve to show our faces. We have to beg for forgiveness where necessary, but above all forgive ourselves if we want to have a prayer at living again.
I learned this from Grant Tilley. Grant is the main character in my latest novel. He’s a tortured blues musician who started out as a naive young boy with a heart of gold, just trying to make ends meet on the wrong side of the depression era. After about a decade of destroying all that was good in his life, he has to face old ghosts. While I was writing some dialogue between Grant and the old flame he was begging back into his life, I realized something only as it came out of his mouth. He told his love he didn’t deserve her, therefore he didn’t think he was worthy of her love. At that moment he had a revelation, and discovered that he didn’t deserve her because he hadn’t forgiven himself. He was still wearing the clothing of the man he used to be, not the man who could love her the way she needed to be loved. He had to love himself to love her, and that would make him worthy. Love is worth.
I’m starting to sound like I’m giving a sermon, and even as I’m writing this am beginning to understand some I’ve heard before a little deeper. Love is the divine part of us, and I’ve said it a million times. However, when we traipse about wearing pride as a badge of honor we can’t find it. We all have old ghosts to face, and people’s forgiveness to ask for. However, we must be vulnerable to do that, and face all of our ugliness in the mirror, and say, “that’s okay this time. I love you anyway.” It is then we know we deserve the love of another person, because we know we are worthy enough to love ourselves. Thanks Grant Tilley, you’ve opened my eyes once again. It would be a lie to say I created you…you’re just in there clawing your way out. What a brave voice you speak out of me.
***A side note to writers…remember this when the query responses start pouring in…forgive your short-comings, fix them, and roll again.