Forgiving others is hard. We all know it, and I think it’s unrealistic to pretend that we don’t all struggle with forgiving people who have hurt us (especially if that hurt is deep). But for many people I know forgiving themselves is actually a lot harder than forgiving someone else.
I have encountered so many self-loathing Catholics; Catholics who think that they are dirty, sinful, and unworthy of God’s love.
Today Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York articulated something that clicked with me a few days ago on this pilgrimage; the message of Divine Mercy is incredible because it gives us permission to forgive ourselves.
Look at it this way, if I may paraphrase the Cardinal, if God, the creator of the universe and all things, can forgive you then it is almost a terrible arrogance to refuse yourself forgiveness. Are you saying your own standards are higher than God’s?
I heard a similar idea from a non-Catholic a few years ago that resonated with me at the time; Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. You are as worthy of love, compassion and empathy as your neighbour.
It’s also funny that this idea is reflected in modern psychology. My own psychologist would often point out to me that I hold myself to a higher standard than I hold others. If you’ve ever seen a psychologist or counsellor you’ve probably participated in the “sympathetic friend” exercise, where you are asked to articulate what you would say to a friend who was in your own situation (or think about what a sympathetic friend might say to you).
Remember that God is always our sympathetic friend; always there to offer guidance and love, and to tell us we are worthy of forgiveness.