If you have a heartbeat and are able to process emotions, I’m going to challenge you to a thoughtful internal examination. Hopefully this will resonate with each and every one of us, because what we’re going to dive into touches us all, whether we like it or not. I ask you to come along with me, with an open mind and open heart. If we’re going to foster respect in our communities, we’ve got to do the dirty work.
Ok, here goes.
No one is eager to be honest about their shortcomings. To have walked through this life without needing to ask for forgiveness, on several occasions, is an utter and complete impossibility. The human experience is full of fallibility. It’s our nature. And if you think this doesn’t apply to you, then let me just stop you right there and offer you an uncomfortable truth: You’re completely fooling yourself.
If you haven’t had your mea culpa moment – when time stops as you realize your fault and decide to be honest about that – then you are denying yourself a profound blessing. Where can true personal growth and freedom be found? In reconciling our fault and deciding to do better for ourselves and others.
Carrying both guilt and bitterness is a terrible burden. It foments anxiety and stress. In reality, those at fault may be hurting themselves more than others, and are most likely imprisoned with guilt and shame, regardless if they recognize that they are the source of their own pain. Recognizing this and earnestly wanting to do better is a pathway to better health – mind, body and spirit.
This applies to both those who should seek forgiveness and those who need to get to the place of giving it. The sad and unfair truth is that all involved suffer. If you’ve been wronged, you know how this feels. It can consume you. It hurts. Giving our gift of forgiveness – even when it has not been asked for or deserved – is one of the most difficult and fulfilling things we can do. And if those hurt relationships are not fully restored through forgiveness, that's ok too. The gift is in the freedom it brings within, and the learning and work on our end to change our own hearts. Getting there is one of the hardest things to do, but releasing that power over us is fully worth it.
Side note: Refer back to earlier Cultivating Respect discussions about boundaries. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean inviting the offender back into your life. You can forgive in your own heart, let go, move on and keep that person at a safe distance. Unhealthy relationships are just that, unhealthy. Keep a reasonable boundary when necessary, and please do not feel guilty about that. Set that burden down, daily if you need to, and walk forward.
Wouldn’t this life be ridiculously easy if we could control the actions of others? Stop bothering me! Stop bullying me! Stop spreading gossip and lies! See me as I want to be seen! Treat me how I deserve to be treated! Give me the respect and dignity I deserve!
(All of these translate to: Love Me. The underlying plea of humanity - to be loved, have dignity and belong. Chew on that for a second.)
Of course, only our own actions fall within our power. How we react, what we give light to, who we allow into our lives, what gets our precious time. I may not be able to change the way someone thinks or what they do, but I can live my life with integrity and strive to be the best example, even in all my own shortcomings. And I certainly can seek forgiveness for my own faults, and soak up the gifts that come along with being vulnerable enough to undertake this kind of exercise.
At this moment, I challenge you to be brutally honest with yourself. Take off your blinders, or the coping strategies you’ve clung to in order to avoid this kind of self-examination. Set it all down for a moment. It’s just you and me here. No one else. You can be vulnerable, and it may hurt, but I can tell you from my own life experience that you will be grateful for taking this step.
With all my love and compassion, I encourage you to reconcile with yourself. Be brutally honest with yourself about what we have done, what we could have done, what we failed to do. Sometimes the only way we can start this journey is to forgive ourselves, and commit to do the hard work, and take meaningful steps to rectify these shortcomings.
Then, have the courage to take an inventory of those you’ve hurt, or even those who have expressed to you they’ve been hurt but you’ve instead flipped that narrative. What is the worst thing that can happen from admitting your shortcoming, learning from it, pledging to do better and asking for forgiveness? You may forever lose the relationship, yes. But even in that case, you will have begun to do the work that will lead you to become a stronger, healthier version of your current self. Consider it. I’ll be cheering you on from these imaginary sidelines. There is immense power in your mea culpa, and I hope you can be humble enough to find and rest in that positive energy.
Respect is built on a foundation of truth, character, integrity. The longer we bury our heads in the sand about our misdeeds, the farther we move from our full potential. Each one of us has compelling gifts that will make this world a better place. And for heaven’s sake, we are in desperate need for that in these challenging times. Don’t squander that energy.
Darcy Castro is a speaker, content creator and advocate for children of parents with a brain tumor. She is the founder and leader of Darcy Castro Productions LLC, the Empowerment Academy and the Kindred Heart Foundation. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is an initiative focused on practical ways to create respectful environments in our own little pockets of the world. The articles, podcasts and videos feature honest, thought-provoking ideas that aim to inspire and foster positive, respectful communities. Follow Cultivating Respect at DarcyCastro.com.