"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?” – Mt. 18:21
“How often must I forgive him?” What if we changed that around to “How often must I forgive myself?”
I fail on a daily basis. Some days I fail to be charitable to others in my thoughts and actions. Sometimes I fail at simply being grateful for the abundant blessings in my life. However, most often I fail at loving myself. I play the vicious game of compare and despair, wallowing in self-pity about all of the things I could have in my life, all of the things I desire.
In the Gospel reading for today, I’m a slave bowing to a master, a servant to the game of “what if.” It’s the game of Life, one that I could sit and play for hours, envious of what everyone else has, angry at myself for not doing more, not loving more, not simply being … more.
Like many of you, I am my own worst and absolute harshest critics. I don’t need anyone to tell me my faults. I can spit out a list so quickly that it would make your head spin. I look in the mirror or see a photo of myself and instantly think, “Oh, my goodness, I am so HUGE in that picture! UGH – the fat rolls. That wasn’t the best outfit to wear, and what the heck is my hair doing?! Yikes – that was a choice.”
If we were to think or verbalize these thoughts about anyone else, we’d be in confession line on a weekly, if not daily (or hourly), basis. And yet, here we are, made in the image and likeness of Christ, berating ourselves into despair, forgetting that Christ loves us, “flaws” and all.
Before I could love others and serve others, I had to forgive myself for failing to love my “flaws”, for failing to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for this incredible body and life You have so generously given to me.” I had to allow His mercy and love to mend the wounds of self-hatred.
“Natalie, I am sorry I have chosen to think of you as ugly, unworthy, unsuccessful, unlovable. Please accept my apology for all of the times I have chosen to belittle you. Forgive me for all of the times I have not loved you, exactly as you are.”
This grace of forgiveness of self has allowed my life to flourish. Once I let go of the expectations of what I should look like, be like, do with my life, who I should be friends with, where I should be volunteering, how well I should sing at mass, this grace and forgiveness allows me to embrace the “imperfections” and let the true work of reconciliation, a relationship of healing within myself, begin.
I encourage you for the remainder of Lent to reflect on the times when perhaps you weren’t the kindest person to yourself. How can you begin to live a life where the love starts from within?
Pray with “Brokenness Aside” by All Sons and Daughters as a way to remember that while we are all sinners, Christ, by the power of the cross, is Savior and makes forgiveness, even of yourself, possible. He makes all things beautiful.