Learning How To Forgive Myself

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BLOGGER: SUSAN GAMMAGE
Susan Gammage, Baha'i Life Coach (1)
— Susan Gammage, MES, author, educator and researcher living and working in Muskoka, loves to find ways to apply Bahá’í principles to everyday life situations; to help people learn to “live the life”. She is the author of 16 books including Violence and Abuse:  Reasons and Remedies.  Visit her Bookstore ; get your Free E-Books ; sign up for her Newsletter; and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

It’s much harder to forgive ourselves, than it is to forgive others.

We love Bahá’u’lláh and want to do the right thing, but it’s hard when we live in a society whose behaviour is so at variance with the Faith.

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances . . . are hard to understand and obey at first.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

God knows that in our weakness, we will repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us.

The House of Justice asks us to point out that the recognition of the Manifestation of God is but the beginning of a process of growth and that as we become more deepened in the Teachings and strive to follow His principles, we gradually approach more and more the perfect pattern which is presented to us. Bahá’u’lláh recognizes that human beings are fallible. He knows that, in our weakness, we shall repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us.   (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

The key is to be patient with ourselves:

We must be patient with others, infinitely patient, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair . . . He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 456)

Don’t think you’re alone in beating yourself up – even Shoghi Effendi had his moments!:

Shoghi Effendi considered himself a failure to “Rise to the situation the Master’s passing had placed him in” – and this distressed him for many years. (Rúhíyyih Rabbání, The Priceless Pearl, p. 72)

Believe that God has Already Forgiven Us

We can more easily forgive ourselves when we truly believe God has forgiven us as soon as we turn in His direction.

Here’s another story of how this works:

That very afternoon, in my room with two of the believers, I spoke against a brother in the truth, finding fault with him, and giving vent to the evil in my own heart by my words … A little later we all went to supper, and my hard heart was unconscious of its error, until, as my eyes sought the beloved face of my Master, I met His gaze, so full of gentleness and compassion that I was smitten to the heart. For in some marvellous way His eyes spoke to me; in that pure and perfect mirror I saw my wretched self and burst into tears.

He took no notice of me for a while and everyone kindly continued with the supper while I sat in His dear Presence washing away some of my sins in tears. After a few moments He turned and smiled on me and spoke my name several times as though He were calling me to Him. In an instant such sweet happiness pervaded my soul, my heart was comforted with such infinite hope, that I knew He would cleanse me of all of my sins.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 63)

Pride and Ego

God assures everyone who responds to His call of His forgiveness, and doesn’t want us to be afraid or sorry.

Fear not, nor be Thou grieved, for indeed unto such as have responded to Thy Call, whether men or women, We have assured forgiveness of sins, as known in the presence of the Best Beloved and in conformity with what Thou desirest. Verily His knowledge embraceth all things.  (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 54)

If we hold onto self-condemnation once we know God’s forgiveness, we’re going against God.  Our judgement is faulty and God knows more than we do:

Whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 186)

Sometimes when we can’t forgive ourselves, it’s because our ego and pride get in the way, as we believe we know more than God does.  We’re back in our lower nature.

Verily, the breezes of forgiveness have been wafted from the direction of your Lord, the God of Mercy; whoso turneth thereunto, shall be cleansed of his sins, and of all pain and sickness. Happy the man that hath turned towards them, and woe betide him that hath turned aside.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 17-18)

Detachment from our self and ego is needed if we don’t want to remain far from God’s bountiful favours!

But as they were not detached from the things of this world and could not subdue their self and ego, they remained remote from His bountiful favours.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 404)

With a Little Help from Our Friends

Sometimes we need a little help from our friends to believe that God has forgiven us, as this story illustrates:

A few weeks ago, while I was on a tour, a fine young man asked me if I could give him some comfort, which he said he needed badly, and he explained that he had been living the kind of life that he was sure God could never forgive him for. He asked me, “How can I possibly square myself with God?‘’ My heart ached for him, he was so sincere, and yet I was so glad to be able to assure him that he had already been forgiven, that God is the All-Knowing, the All- Wise, the Ever-Forgiving, the Ever- Loving, the Most-Merciful. Me said, “How I wish I could believe that.” I happened to have a quotation from the Qur‘an in my hand where Muhammad had said, “Prayer is a ladder by which everyone can ascend to heaven.” He seemed to be comforted by that assurance that everyone can ascend to heaven.  (John Robarts)

Recently someone asked me if God would forgive an adulterer.  I answered:  Absolutely! There isn’t any sin too big for God.  All we have to do is ask.  He loves us so His mercy exceeds His fury!  Once we’ve been forgiven, our sins are washed away!

Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 130)

God forgives anyone who asks! For those who sincerely want to change, He’s already forgiven us because he knows our intent.

We have assured forgiveness of sins, as known in the presence of the Best Beloved and in conformity with what Thou desirest. Verily His knowledge embraceth all things. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 54)

Not only does he forgive us, but he doesn’t want us to worry about our sins; but to be confident that we’ve been born anew from his forgiveness:

We have attired his temple with the robe of forgiveness and adorned his head with the crown of pardon. It beseemeth him to pride himself among all men upon this resplendent, this radiant and manifest bounty. Say: Be not despondent. After the revelation of this blessed verse it is as though thou hast been born anew from thy mother’s womb. Say: Thou art free from sin and error. Truly God hath purged thee with the living waters of His utterance in His Most Great Prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 77)

For this gift, He wants us to teach His Faith as a way to strengthen us from further temptation in this area.

We entreat Him—blessed and exalted is He—to graciously confirm thee in extolling Him and in magnifying His glory and to strengthen thee through the power of His invisible hosts. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 77)

Also, adultery is NOT the worst sin. Backbiting is the “most great sin” and lying is the “most odious”. Remember, He’ll even forgive Covenant-Breakers!

It is important to note that should a Covenant-breaker recognize his mistakes, become conscious of his transgressions against the Cause of God and find the urge to repent, the Centre of the Cause, when satisfied he is sincerely repentant, will forgive his past deeds and restore his credibility and status as a Bahá’í in good standing in the community.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 240)

I think it’s much harder to forgive ourselves, though . . . We love Bahá’u’lláh and want to do the right thing, but it’s hard when we live in a society whose behaviour is so at variance with the Faith.

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances . . . are hard to understand and obey at first.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

The House of Justice asks us to point out that the recognition of the Manifestation of God is but the beginning of a process of growth and that as we become more deepened in the Teachings and strive to follow His principles, we gradually approach more and more the perfect pattern which is presented to us. Bahá’u’lláh recognizes that human beings are fallible. He knows that, in our weakness, we shall repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us.   (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

The key is to be patient with ourselves:

We must be patient with others, infinitely patient, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair . . . He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 456)

As ‘Abdu’l-Baha liked to say “Little by little, day by day”!

What steps do you take to forgive yourself?

If you would like to read more from Susan Gammage, check out her blog at http://susangammage.com/blog

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