For three years I attended Jean Houston’s “Mystery School” in New York. One weekend Jean was gone and our substitute teacher was Marianne Williamson, the writer and peace activist who has popularized “A Course in Miracles” in her books, such as “A Return to Love” and “Everyday Grace”
Marianne said something I’ve not forgotten. The context was powerful – and I’ll write about that event another time, as it is worthy of reflection. But for now, just the quote:
“Forgive yourselves and get back to work.”
I remembered that last night as I was talking to friend. I am blessed to be in a sort of ‘big sister’/mentor role in her life and she had called me for advice. She had three instances of late in which she found herself enraged at people who were not pulling their own weight, not working, not being self-supporting. She has done enough personal growth work to know that the degree to which she was upset was indicative that this wasn’t just about ‘them’ – it was about her.
It wasn’t the obvious (it rarely is). She has worked hard since she was young, is working now, and is financially pulling her weight in her marriage.
But as she delved deeper she realized that she still had some deep shame about some financial decisions she and her husband made a few years ago.
She’s made a lot of financial changes – has ‘amended her ways’ – as a result of that hard decision.
But what she had NOT done was to forgive herself.
I congratulated my friend on the “getting back to work” part (i.e., ‘doing the next right thing’). And I encouraged her to now turn towards forgiving herself.
So imagine my surprise this morning when I awakened, just barely conscious, and began berating myself for wasting the rest of the evening last night. Oh, my time with my friend felt like a gift, worthy of my attention – but it was the hours of playing games and checking Facebook rather than ‘being productive’ about which I had an opinion.
I can see, too, what a habit this can be. NOT ‘doing the next right thing’ and then, rather than observing and changing, acting like just beating up on myself will change things.
In fact, it makes it worse.
For one, it stops a deeper inquiry. And, it gives the false illusion of having made amends – when the real amend is, as any dictionary will tell us, ‘to change.’
I’m grateful to Marianne Williamson for giving me a memorable quote for this concept. And to my friend for serving as a mirror.
And now? I forgive myself for loafing (not such a bad thing at all!) and I have a plan for tonight that includes both some productive activities and some RELAXATION (which is not ‘bad’!).
How about you? Do you ‘forgive yourself and get back to work’? Or do you need to retake that class as I do? I’d really like to know!