Just a few weeks ago, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, was sentenced to three years in prison. This news development really struck me–how often do we make mistakes for which we don’t experience any consequences?
Sometimes, as in Cohen’s case, there is a clear trajectory between the deed and the consequence. For most of our actions though, we are left to our own devices. How do you deal with others’ mess-ups, and how do you rectify your own mistakes?
Is forgiveness always the answer?
Forgiveness is an important part of recovery. Part of moving on from the past is letting go. Forgiving yourself, and the people who failed you is an integral aspect of that process.
There are mistakes that cannot be rectified. Some mistakes create too much damage and some may be irreparable, like in cases of abuse when the victim never fully recovers. When you’re struggling to forgive an irreparable mistake, it’s important to be gentle and self-aware. What does healing look like for you?
Sometimes focusing on yourself is the only form of forgiveness you can manage, and that’s okay.
It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.
Whatever forgiveness means in the given situation, it can be used as a tool for growth, healing, and recovery.
Don’t give up on good
In my practice, I encounter a lot of shame, guilt, and painful loneliness that stems from our own self-judgments. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are with others. We feel we are in the position to judge ourselves but we lack objectivity and leniency. Self-forgiveness is essential to healing and moving on. If you let your past mistakes define you, you are essentially trapping yourself in a cycle of regret and guilt.
In Judaism, the concept of teshuva contains the idea that our misdeeds can actually be transformed into merits. What is responsible for this dramatic shift? If we channel our remorse into determination and use that powerful emotion for good deeds, then our mistakes are ultimately the catalysts for good.
Contemplating mistakes and forgiveness can help us become more aware of the power of our actions. It can also help us to cultivate understanding and compassion toward others. When we acknowledge and forgive ourselves for our own mistakes we are able to extend the gift of forgiveness.