This one can be tough because forgiveness goes in so many directions. We have to learn to forgive ourselves, one another and we have to be forgiven by others. Life and the people we know in it are so unpredictable. Who knows where our head is in any given moment. It's so easy to say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, or lash out in an emotional way.. How do we cope?
Forgiveness... Maybe not immediately. Maybe not in person. We have to forgive. As I reflect on this topic, forgiveness starts with ourselves first. We have to be able to let go of things we've said and done. We have to be willing to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and imperfect moments before we can forgive another person. It's not easy to release the memory of horrible things we have said or done to those we love. Or forgive ourselves or others for horrible things that happened to us. Perhaps we've even hurt perfect strangers in a moment of weakness. It happens. We're not perfect. Where do you start on the journey to forgiving yourself?
Personally I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the last 30 years. So much has happened and some times memories flash back that were hidden deep inside my mind. Memories that I did not want to remember happened. But in the releasing of those traumas I am able to make space to forgive myself for what happened. One particular trauma I have a hard time forgiving myself for are my first sexual encounters, which were not consensual or age appropriate upon reflection. This kind of start to my sexuality is something that effected all other interactions and relationships after the fact. It took me years to realize the issue was at the foundation. Accepting as a college student that I was assaulted and statutory raped as a child was a whole process in its self.
Needless to say forgiving myself instead of blaming myself is a huge part of healing from what happened to me. I was so young that I had no idea how to set boundaries. I was so inexperienced I had no idea how to say no. I was so insecure that I feared the rejection of pushing those people who were actually hurting me away, even though some of what was happening to me felt good. That is an immense amount of guilt to feel. There's no going back. From there it's always been hard to reach me and my communication skills around relationships suffered for a long time. Looking back on those moments I was betrayed by people I liked and was attracted to. How can I forgive myself for letting this happen to me?
Acceptance. I have to accept what happened. Acknowledge what was wrong about it. Release all that was unsaid, all that was felt, all that pain. Forgive myself and those people for taking advantage of me and move forward knowing that I will never let this kind of action happen EVER again. Sure, I wish my experience with physical touch was different but I can't do anything about it now. All I can do is forgive myself.
A huge part of moving on has been realizing my own bad habits that formed from the abuse. I was dating, dating, dating, and having sex with people way too soon because of my early and non consensual experiences. There was so much emphasis on dating that I would throw people away if things weren't going my way. I was not creating a solid foundation for long term relationships in the first place. I hurt a lot of people and myself in the process. Once I realized this It was easy to step back, figure out what I really wanted in a partner, who I wanted to be as a partner, and have some clarity about how I'd hurt many friends with my inconsiderate behaviors.
Looking back on the wake of people left in the past made me think about the kind of friend, daughter and person I wanted to be. I feel bad about some of the things I've done. In the moment I didn't know I was doing such wrong but looking back.. there are things I wish I didn't do or say to people I cared about. It also made me realize the kind of men I was letting into my life had bad habits as well. One of the last men I dated before I was completely finished with dating for a while actually assaulted me and that was the foundation of our relationship. We met at a friend's vacation home. When I went to bed, he never left the room. He actually stayed in the bed next to mine for hours before pressuring me to let him come into my bed where he proceeded to touch me inappropriately. Several years later as I reflect on that moment it is so CRINGE! I obviously had so much work to do even then!
One of the ways I forgave myself and regained personal power was through my nude modeling in nature. It was in those moments and spaces that I felt so deeply connected to the divine mother, our earth. It made me realize the violence she endures and produces but still thrives and creates such beauty through it all. She grows back. I was able to see myself in a new light and connect with my soul on a spiritual level. Unfortunately I was still dating that guy mentioned above.. When I started to release these images online and speak about what power I felt he began to essentially slut shame me for it. 'Oh you're just looking for attention' - Seriously dood, NO. I am looking to release all the baggage affiliated with bodies, nudity, and free myself from the shackles of what I thought about myself and people at the time. Things ended and I'm so grateful for that because the era I entered after that relationship was one of getting to know myself on a new level. I stepped into my own power, accepted responsibility for things in my life and found a perspective on life that renewed my energy.
Beyond relationships with men, there are some things I look back on and wish I'd not have said or acted the way I did. What can you do though? I can't change what happened, I can just learn from my mistakes and forgive myself for not knowing and doing better. Any time I catch myself remembering something specific I've said or done in the past, I'm making a conscious effort to forgive myself for it. When we forgive ourselves for these moments we have the opportunity to change, grow and move on. This is one reason why I say we have to not only forgive ourselves but one another. You have no idea what people are shifting, living, and changing through. I know people change. I know time heals most things. I am living proof that people change. Just after breaking it off with that last boyfriend I had a falling out with one of my dearest friends. The situation got ugly and could have been worse but having grown up with siblings, It was not in me to retaliate. I just lived through it as to not say things I didn't mean. I knew something else was going on outside of us. After several years we were able to meet up and apologize for the falling out. We forgave ourselves and one another for what happened.
Over the centuries, especially in recent years, there are so many polarizing topics presented to us in an effort to tear us apart based on opinions. The isolation will drive us into madness. I can't name how many falling outs I've seen online between friends and family. Based on comments written, opinions stated, or articles shared. It's heart breaking. I know it's easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment or take things personally online but a lot of these interactions are not worth losing the relationship over. We have to be able to discuss or disagree with one another. If this has happened to you and you miss those people, consider apologizing or reconnecting. We need one another. That's what emotional intelligence and maturity is. Most of my family members I disagree with about many topics. Some things we can agree on but that doesn't mean I love them any less! I chose a very different path than most people for my career and I often feel judged or looked down upon for my choices. I can't take it to heart. I forgive people for the stupid comments made about how my degree is a 'do nothing degree' or how ' I need to find a job'. I know I have a job running my business and will prove anyone wrong about how my degree is inferior. I forgive those people for passing judgement on me or counting me out.
I am sorry to those I've hurt before. I sincerely apologize for my immature, inconsiderate, and thoughtless actions. As I mature I see clearly how I've acted wrong. I forgive myself for what I once regretted. There is no space for regret moving forward. I did what I did and said what I said. In those moments I was figuring myself and my life out. No doubt I'll make mistakes in the future. I forgive those who have harmed and hurt me as well. I know that like me, they were fighting through the traumas and pains in life. I just hope that certain people can forgive me as well. Only time will tell. Some connections are just lost, I accept that. Some I hope to regain. I look forward to new connections made on this foundation I've created by forgiving myself and others.
If there is someone you want to reconnect with and you think there is enough time, space, and maturity to apologize or just open the conversation with - THIS IS YOUR SIGN. There is nothing weak about apologizing or reconnecting with some one you care about. In this life you can only throw so many people in the trash before you need to reflect on your own habits and personality. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made or traumas you lived through. Especially when you were too young to understand, when you were too broken/inexperienced to set the boundary, too insecure to reject another person for hurting you. The real people who care about you will stick around, respect your boundaries or forgive you for not being perfect all the time.
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About the Author & Artist
Megan LaCroix also known as Citrine is the daughter of a Navy Veteran. She’s lived all over the US but has roots in Michigan where her family is from. Spending summers in Northern Michigan exploring nature inspired her to create art work starting with jewelry and photography. She’d spend hours looking for rocks and creating assorted beaded jewelry with her sisters. In 2014 She graduated from University of Michigan School of Art & Design with a BFA then moved to Detroit where she is currently living and working. She is a multi-media artist with ever expanding skills but is best known for her jewelry, screen printing, photography, and paintings. Detroit Graffiti has a significant influence on her painting and drawing style. She’s participated in ArtPrize 2015 & 2021 and currently has a studio in the Village Arts Factory of Canton, MI.