Hard on Self…Hard on Others

“Forgive me.” Ugh…I will admit that I have not practiced the art of asking for forgiveness. Although I am quick to say, “I’m sorry,” that is usually where my confession stops. To take it further requires a level of humility that stops me. Why? There is much shame surrounding my life with sexual abuse, an eating disorder and secrecy. I just want to keep that buried in my heart. I don’t like being the guilty one. It is too painful…I don’t want to be judged for my past.

Asking someone to forgive me feels risky. Maybe they will or maybe they won’t.

There is certainly a measure of relief for those times that I’ve asked, ”forgive me” and I have been granted forgiveness in the moment. Afterward I reflect on how easy it was and wonder why I don’t ask more often. Could it be that I just don’t want to admit to the wickedness, which co-exists with the goodness, in my heart that I foolishly believe I can hide from God and others? I believe so… much of this is directly related to my story of addiction and abuse that I simply want to be over. My wounding of others comes from this place.

Someone said to me, “Hard on self, hard on others.” I had not given much thought as to how hard I was on myself but as I reflect on this, I know that I am. It has kept me bound in perfection where I expect the same from others. It has felt justified and right as I’ve strived to work out my story but at the expense of others. It is an ugly picture. Yet I have learned something very valuable as I have risked asking, “Forgive me” from John.

Last summer was a difficult one for John and me to navigate. Depression/anxiety entered through our front door and took up residence in our home for 4 months. I didn’t recognize its presence at first. It wasn’t until I started to deny it, to hide it, to ignore it, to isolate it and to busy it that I knew we were in trouble. Each day became a trial to live with this uninvited intrusion. In the process, I avoided the mental pain John was experiencing and failed to see his heart seeking help.

I’ve tried to put last summer on the back burner. There is an energy within me that does not want to admit that I missed John’s hurting heart to protect my own. His vulnerability came crashing into mine as I hunkered down to survive. I am very familiar with this place of hiding and surviving. I wanted John to join me there. I wanted his story to be my story of gutting through life. It didn’t work.

Finally, we received help. Life felt easy again. But I knew in my heart more was required of me than an easier life with John. My heart had softened towards John and his pain, yet I could no longer avoid the heart that was hard on him during those 4 months. I needed to ask him to “forgive me”.

I didn’t want to cry. I thought I could just say it and be done…but God knew my heart better than I knew my own. Ironically God convicted me to ask John to “forgive me” as I contemplated what I could write about on the topic of “forgive me.” My heart felt broken as I began to name those places where I had missed his pain. My tears began to surface. I was kind to his heart and kind toward my own story that had played such a part in all this avoidance.

God forgave me and so did John. Both our hearts experienced the touch of forgiveness. Likewise we became healers for one another. Such a blessing for me to be loved in a place of humiliation and a place where goodness was found also.

I’m not finished with asking, “Forgive me.” It will come around again. My hope is to be ready…to risk…to give and to receive.

MJMary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.