What's the worst thing you've ever done? The time you shoplifted? Had that affair? Were super mean to your partner? Yelled at your helpless dog? Put your kids in danger? Abandoned someone?
Lied? Bullied that other kid when you were young? Hit that bicyclist with your car and drove off? Abused someone? Got drunk and violent?
Whatever it is, if you're labeling it as "the worst thing you've ever done," chances are it's unresolved in you and you've got an opportunity to heal it. Chances are you feel ashamed of yourself. Or guilty.
Shame and guilt stall the healing process.
Because shame tells you that you're wrong, messed up, and generally a bad person for doing what you did. That you don't deserve compassion or forgiveness.
When shame is front and center, there's no room for compassion, the true healer. Compassion gives you breathing room enough to stop the "I'm bad" story and begin to wonder, "What had me do that? What was I feeling that would have me do xyz? What else is part of this story?"
Compassion the way I use it assumes that whatever you've done, no matter how horrible, you had a good reason, even if you were out of integrity.
People do not do "bad" things because they're bad people.
"Bad" is just a shame-based judgement.
People do "bad" things because they're doing their best to work out something unresolved in themselves and don't have the skills they need to do that. Probably, what you really needed was support.
Like the time you lied because you were too scared of the consequences of telling the truth (and really needed support to find your way into your power because you couldn't find it on your own).
Or when you got drunk and violent because you lacked the skill to metabolize your anger in a healthy way. You probably could have used a good therapist to help teach you.
The time you cheated in your marriage because you felt trapped, defeated, and not yourself. Perhaps someone could have helped you access yourself again and see different options that you can't see when you're in a place of struggle.
Or when you harassed/judged/abused someone because they reflected a part of you that you just couldn't face. You probably needed someone to help you gently see and embrace this part of you.
Whatever you've done, shaming or judging yourself will not undo it, fix it, or make you feel better. Nor will this self abuse show the person you hurt how sorry you are.
There is absolutely nothing that doesn't deserve compassion.
When I talk with people about this, they usually ask me about Hitler. "Really? I mean what about genocide? What about Hitler?"
First, let me say that compassion and condoning are NOT the same thing. Of course there's no way I condone what Hitler did. Definitely not. (I'm someone who's read every Holocaust survivor story I could get my hands on).
Earlier I said that there's no such thing as "bad" people. But I do believe there's such a thing as "sick" people. I've read a little about Hitler's psychology and I can say with complete certainty that he needed a lot of therapy. A lot lot. He was deeply wounded.
And to be honest, I don't feel compassionate towards Hitler. Not yet. Maybe one day. My point is that even he is not beyond deserving of compassion.
And yes, compassion or not, there are always consequences for being out of integrity.
But I digress. This is not about Hitler.
This is about you doing what you need to do in order to feel and make friends with your shame in order to move through it. On the other side of that doorway is compassion for yourself that will help you resolve and heal from your past. So that you can clear up the places where you don't love yourself.
Have you forgiven yourself for anything big? Found your way to compassion and gotten closer to yourself? Or do you have skeletons in the closet that could use your attention or support from someone skilled? Please leave me a comment below and share. And check back for my response!
Finally, please share this post on Facebook or other social media and spread the love.
With heaps and heaps of loving compassion for you. You are not whatever you've done.
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