I was reading blog posts of other authors today and came across a nice one about forgiveness. And suddenly it hit me: I had never really learned how to forgive myself for being a perfectly imperfect human being.
It’s instilled in many of us, on the genetic level: the judgement that comes with being a being that is learning. With learning and growing comes making ‘mistakes’. For hundreds of years, judgment, punishment and guilt have been a teaching tool to keep us on the ‘right’ path, but with horrible consequences.
As children, we learn by experiencing things. And when we do something that is not in alignment with our higher self, our truth, experience will tell us so. We burn our hand on the hot stove. We slip and fall when we run on the ice. We feel bad when we act out of alignment with our heart, out of alignment with love and compassion. We learn by ‘getting it’ through experience.
But somewhere along the line, in our history as human beings we have begun to teach our children by judging and punishing them for their ‘mistakes’. The disapproving look a mother might give her child when he raids the cookie jar, threatening the loss of love. The bad grades children get when their work isn’t up to par with what curriculum dictates. Oh, I remember the angry red pencil slashes and judgemental notes of my second grade teacher when my little inner artist drew cats on flying carpets in the margins of her arithmetic notebook! I still have problems with calculating today.
Animals don’t learn by judging themselves or being judged. When they make a mistake, they learn and move on. For instance, a water hen building her nest in an unsafe location may lose her whole offspring for one season. But she will learn to build her nest in a safer location with experience. I have never seen waterfowl beat itself up over making a mistake. They learn by experience and move on.
The problem with judging as a learning tool is that it makes people feel bad about themselves in a way that will subtly haunt them for the rest of their lives. Because is contrary to unconditional love. Judgement doesn’t accept what is.
Judgement says: I will only love you when you are so-and-so. I will only accept you when you do so-and-so. And when we learn to judge ourselves as children by being judged by the adults in our lives, we get the message that love is conditional. Acceptance is conditional. It may never be admissible to love ourselves unconditionally because hey, if we do, we might make the same mistakes, right?
No. We don’t make mistakes. There is no such thing as a mistake. There are only learning experiences. And when we learn to take responsibility for our experiences and their consequences, and love ourselves no matter what, is when we truly grow, is when we truly become grown-up human beings.