Forgiveness is a gift and one we find hardest to give to ourselves. By not forgiving ourselves we keep a burning ember our hearts.
The burning ember that gets stuck in our hearts when we do not forgive ourselves has a name. That name? Shame. Shame is part of our genetic make up and serves a useful purpose. That purpose? To keep us from doing the unforgivable and it is the healthy part of shame.
Shame appears as a recognizable emotion around the age of three; the age when children can hurt younger children or pets. Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan notes this is the genetic part of shame and designed to prevent older siblings from committing the “Sin of Cain.”
Toxic shame is not healthy shame. Family, religions, cultures attach shame to many behaviors that are far from unacceptable. A good example comes from the saying “Lusting in your heart” which is too often viewed as the same as acting on lust in unacceptable ways.
Sexual behaviors that are normal are the primary example of culturally created shame. Masturbation and homophobia being the best examples of sexual behaviors made toxic via religious or cultural beliefs.
Blaming others trying to avoid feeling shamed is another form of toxic shame. This is complicated but important to understand. Shame hurts and hurt seeks release; seeking release from personal shame all too often comes from turning on others. Instead of blaming yourself for your feelings of shame, you seek someone else to blame. The mental health professionals call this projection.
Kagan makes the point that when we feel uncertain about our goodness finding someone to blame often keeps us from looking at our own behavior. Once again think of dress. Most stones about provocative dress are cast at women’s attire. Instead of men dealing with their unacceptable desires, women are blamed and control of their dress sought.
Same thing happens in terms of homophobia, fear of one’s own sexuality,turns to hatred of gays.
This projection of shame on to others is less obvious when it comes to everyday criticism, but surfaces as anger when being criticised. If you know someone who explodes with anger when criticized, you know someone dealing with buried shame about imperfections. If you find criticism hard to bear, you are also dealing with buried shame. Buried shame is sinking its fangs into to you and making self-forgiveness difficult.
THe thREE steps to forgiving yourself
Step one: Rate what makes you feel shamed on the universal scale of unacceptable behavior. What is unacceptable behavior? Much disputed, but the Golden Rule is universal. It fails to bring peace on earth because of tribalism and who you think deserves to be treated as you want to be treated and who falls outside that circle of care.
Another universal guide for judging behaviors lies in the Laws of the Children of Noah. Jews do not seek conversion, but do believe that to find favor in God’s heart, non Jews must abide be the laws established after the flood.
Loosely translated these Noahide laws call for the following: establishing a system of law based on justice, belief in a higher power and not cursingthat power’s creation, not worshiping things, not engaging in exploitative sexual behaviors, not stealing or killing, and being compassionate to animals.
Essentially, unacceptable behavior is cruel behavior and that is not so hard to define when one things of all as family, and all deserving the treatment we wish for ourselves and our families.
Step two: Learn to think “good enough” instead of perfect. Moreover, think “almost good enough” and “okay although not so good.” Our society pushes perfection in its worship of celebrities and stars. Not healthy and unrealistic. Moreover, few things need perfection and knowing when less than perfection is needed makes forgiveness of both self and others more easily practiced.
Step three: Practice the following Self-forgiveness exercise daily:
A few things to think about when it comes to children and shame. A child just becoming acquainted with shame measures behavior against what the more powerful people in his or her world do. When s/he does so s/he feels small, incompetent, and powerless; hence, the stormy temper tantrums of the two or three-year old.
Shame is also fear of abandonment. When shamed, you want to sink from sight out of fear that you will be seen as not worthy of being included in the circle of humanity. Many religions shun and isolate those they see as being engaged in shameful behaviors so fear is real. As children need the protection of adults fear of being abandoned is powerful.
Parenting tip one: Apologize and ask for forgiveness when you need your child’s forgiveness. That is usually when stress has blown your cool, but also when you accidentally hurt your child. Do so by stating what you did that was wrong and that you see it hurt your child, then asking to be forgiven, and promising to try to do better.
Parenting tip two: Start early to teach your child to apologize. Link to discipline. For example if using time out, the child cannot be released from time out until he or she can say “Sorry. At first that “Sorry” will be rote, but as the child grows the meaning of “Sorry” can be expanded on until the child learns how to apologize sincerely for bad behavior.
If using behavior charts, link rewards and punishments to the unacceptably of behavior. Thomas Phelan develped the One, Two Three Magic approach, does that by saying some behaviors need immediate punishment, not the choice option of his one, two, three approach.
An example: an anger three-year old purposely hits someone or hurts an animal, immediately intervene, pick the child up, and put him or her in time out. For a teen an immediate response would be a loss of a cherished privilege.
Parenting tip three: Watch for signs that the child feels bad or shamed. Gently, acknowledge the bad feelings and use them as a teachable moment. Ask the child to rate what they did on the good enough, okay, almost good enough, and bad scale and help them decide how to apologize and make an amends.
Parenting tip four: Teach to make amends. We can forgive ourselves more easily when others have forgiven us and a sincere amends does much to repair relationships broken by a bad act.
Parenting tip five: Teach understanding of others. Forgiveness is easiest when we accept that every person does the best they can with what they have been given. Personal bests vary according to many things, including time, stress, past experiences, cultural expectations which include the voices of authority from parents, teachers, religions, and a various gurus including media stars.
Also stress that forgiveness does not involve staying around people who physically harm you. Bullies abound around kids,
Parenting tip six: Build strength and confidence by seeing that your children learn self-defense skills. Peace Dojos teach conflict resolution and karate – good for all the family to learn.
BE KIND TO ME
Please rate this material. Doing so helps my social media ratings, but also lets me know what interests you most. Comments do the same.
This is what your stars will mean to me. No stars –Not good enough to rate; One star – Reinforced my knowledge – Two Stars; New information – Three stars; New useful information; Four stars – Very good; Five stars – Excellent.
Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult but staying strong lets me find the good.
LINKS OF INTEREST
- The Value of SELF Forgiveness (Mayo Clinic
- Universal laws of morality (myjewishlearning.com)
- How to Forgive Yourself (wikihow.com)
- Teaching Children to Forgive (wiadopt.orf)
- Daily Post (wordpress.com)
All the handouts and poster coaches for this course are being posted at the store so you can download them for free. A poster coach is like a face-to-face coach; all serve as practice reminders, some teach you the exercises needed to stay strong.
To use one, after down loading it from the store, print it up preferably in cardstock and color, then post it where you will see it as you go about your day.
Apologies if you cannot find one. I am a Jill of all in this business, so some things take longer than others. If something used here isn’t posted yet, you will find lots of other offerings including inspirational quotes or more EFTI exercises. In time all will be posted.
DAILY PROMPT – Secret Santa You get to choose one gift — no price restrictions — for any person you want. The caveat? You have to give it anonymously. What gift would you give, and to whom?
A winning mega million lottery ticket to my husband.
How this fits in with today’s EFTI Post: He can and then would make amends for the things he carries around in his heart that are useless shame.
Moreover, think I would not need investors to keep EFTI it going for at least a few more years.