Do you have regrets? I would say many of us do. Do you have those things that you wish you did not do? I would say we all do. As a whole humanity holds themselves to certain standards that they don’t always successfully live up to and thus we hold others to even higher standards than ourselves. We are not particularly forgiving of ourselves and even less forgiving of others. This leads to internal unrest and that breeds conflict in our lives and in the world. Conflict with our loved ones: spouses, children, parents, and with friends and even more so with strangers.
In 2007, while I was still in seminary, I attended a denominational trip to Wisconsin in October. It was important and necessary for graduation that I attend these conferences each year. Before I left, my grandmother was in rehabilitation for pneumonia. I hadn’t had the time to go visit her yet. But things didn’t seem dire, so I promised that I would drive home to see her once I was back from my trip. Well, the conference ended and the bus dropped all the students off at the airport to wait for our flights. I had a 6 hour wait in the airport. So I settled into a chair with a good book when my phone rang.
On the other end was my mother audibly upset, my grandmother had passed away. I never told her I loved her. I never got to say goodbye and I never got the chance to see her before she passed like I promised. I had not lived up to my personal standards. I had not kept my promise or prioritized my family. I beat myself up for years for putting off seeing her. I had a very difficult time forgiving myself and to this day it remains a regret of mine. I know she asked for me several times while she was in rehab and I was not there. I made the wrong choices and now they can’t be undone.
I know that my grandmother was not angry with me. I know that she was proud of the work I was doing when she passed. And I know she did not want me to beat myself up over her. But I dealt with guilt for years. I tend to be very hard on myself when I don’t live up to my internal standards and what I learned in those moments and in the years to follow is that just as I have high expectations of myself, I also have high expectations of others and forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to me. I am not a particularly forgiving person of others because I am not forgiving enough of myself. That being said, I don’t just accept this about myself. This is a flaw I have and I seek God’s help every day to live into forgiveness and love to self and others.
To me it seems that the answer to conflict in our world and in our lives is to live lives of forgiveness and understanding, to live into God’s love. This is not something that we do when the conflict happens but rather should be something that we attend to each and every day and when we are not working to forgive another, then we need to be doing so with ourselves. If we want to experience true peace, the promised joy of Christ, and love then we need to deal with our own internal turmoil. Conflict resolution begins inside each one of us. We cannot be at peace with the world around us until we are at peace internally.
This is the hardest lesson of today’s scriptures. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Well if we don’t love ourselves very well; if we don’t respect ourselves; if we judge ourselves harshly, then that is exactly how we treat others. As long as we are treating ourselves poorly, then we cannot begin to bring resolution into our relationships another and we cannot see resolution come to a world in desperate need. Steve Maraboli author of Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, wrote “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward”.
This is a truth Jesus came face to face with in his society. The source of much of the conflict between his people, and the source of much of the conflict in our lives is the inability to forgive and let go in life. In essence, we hold onto grudges. Those grudges not only deteriorate our lives but they deteriorate society as well. They are unhealthy. And if we can’t even learn to love ourselves enough to forgive ourselves then we can’t begin to extend forgiveness to others and bring peace into our lives. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Unless we do something about our own self perceptions and image, unless we are willing to truly love ourselves then we can’t begin to tackle the conflict in our lives, in our communities, and in our world.
So this Lenten season, let’s take to the time love ourselves, to forgive ourselves, and to work past our own perceptions of ourselves, so we can begin to make peace with others and to treat the world first with love and learn to truly live into this command to love our neighbors. So this week, as you continue your Lenten journeys remember how Christ loved us enough to sacrifice himself and his only requirement of us is to love each other and ourselves and to allow it show in our actions, in our thoughts, and in our words. So I ask you to meditate on this question, “Do you love yourself enough to forgive yourself of your own perceived failings?” Then actively offer yourself leniency because this is how we learn to live the life of forgiveness. This is how we invite the peace of Christ to take precedence in our lives and how we bring it to life in the events of the world.
 Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience. 21st century American Researcher.
 Matthew 22: 39, RSV.
(Based on Matthew 22: 28-44)