Making peace with another or in the world – we all talk about it. But are you at war or at peace with yourself?
At the end of 2016 I asked my twitter and blog followers to select one of four topics, which I would then write a post about. “Making peace with yourself” came top.
Making peace is about self acceptance
Thinking about what to write, I asked a friend, whether he forgives himself. He has given me permission to share his reply, which adds another perspective.
My immediate understanding of “making peace with oneself” is in terms of accepting oneself with all our imperfections and having compassion for our short-comings.
This attitude towards ourself can be difficult to achieve, if we do not like ourself, regard ourself as a failure and disappointment, as not good enough, as a hopeless case.
Making peace with oneself is difficult, when we believe we do not deserve peace.
It can also be difficult to be at peace, if we have done things, which are wrong, cannot be undone and have hurt others.
When I asked my friend whether he can forgive himself, he smiled and answered:
“I don’t think about it. And when I do, then I laugh. Not because it is funny. I laugh out of discomfort for the things that I have done. But it is not for me to forgive. It is for another to forgive me. Whether you believe in religion or not, you may think there is something or someone else, bigger than us, who forgives, and who we have to show repentance to…”
Forgiveness and repentance
Do we need to be forgiven by another and to repent to be at peace?
I guess depending on our beliefs we all may have different answers. And it is not for me to single out one as the best and most enlightened.
But I believe being at peace with ourself is valid, important and essential, however we may choose to go about it.
It is important we take responsibility for our actions, and do not ignore the consequences of what we might have done, or not. But it is also important that we do not get stuck in feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
Figuring out what it takes to be at peace with ourself can be quite a task and a process. It might not dissolve twinges of discomfort, guilt, embarrassment and disappointment. It might not undo what has been done, and it might not mend whatever might have been broken.
But making some kind of peace is essential in order to learn lessons and to make changes.
Making peace with ourself allows for self respect, self growth, integrity and hope that life is worth living.
Like a rugged face that has seen many a storm, and rugged hands that have toiled the soil, so our conscience takes some effort and battering throughout our life time.
There are a few things I have done in my life time, which I do not feel proud of, to say the least. I did not act with bad intentions. I acted out of thoughtlessness. I, too, have hurt others who deserved better, and all our lives have been impacted by the choices I have made.
I am not yet sure whether others have forgiven me. It does not feel like I have fully forgiven myself.
I have certainly given it years of thought afterwards, to understand why I did what I did. I have learnt my lesson the hard way. I can look myself in the eye and accept myself despite the mistake.
I decided to give myself another chance, learn and move on, while always carrying a sense of unpleasantness with me.
We need to find a way of making peace and living in peace with ourself. Because that is the hard way to face up to our guilt and to repent.
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Karin Sieger is a UK-based psychotherapist and writer. All rights reserved © Copyright Karin Sieger. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Article do not substitute medical advice.