The Hardest Person to Forgive

…Is most often ourselves. When you grow up scared, everything you learn about self control is likely to be unhealthy. Without ever realizing it, we learned to hold our breath, and to stuff our feelings.

We learned to monitor our environments and the people in them. We are the very best chameleons. Our safety depended on adapting. We learned to intuitively sense what was expected and desired and we offered it without being asked.

Worst of all, we learned to blame ourselves for the failures of others. It afforded us the illusion of having some control over our fate. This is subconsciously driven. If we had accepted that no matter how good we were that our needs would not met, we surely would have broken.

Perfectionism becomes the ideology of a child who has no good options. Unfortunately, as my friends in AA say, “What we lived with, we learned and what we learned we became.” It’s very hard to stop doing the things that helped you to survive.

In this mindset, we reason that if others do not approve of us, it’s because we are not good enough. This makes us work all the harder. It allows employers to exploit us, family to coerce us, and lovers to take us for granted. We redirect the anger and hurt they cause us back at ourselves.

All of these become resentments we hold against ourselves. We are ruthless, not only in our pursuit of the unattainable, but also in our tendency to beat the hell out of ourselves. It’s draining and ultimately fruitless because of course it’s all a set up. The day comes when we cannot withstand our own abuse any longer and we go seeking solutions to our fundamental flaws

In the process of recovery, we are given a seed of doubt by those we see treating themselves similarly, by those who call us out, and through the example of those who overcome. We are given the rather astonishing news that we are loveable and acceptable, exactly as we are. This leaves us with a great deal to reconcile.

We must learn to sort our shame. In doing so, we come to see that most of what we hold does not even belong to us. We discover that letting go is a daunting proposition because in order to release, we must feel what we repressed. We struggle to consider forgiving those who hurt us. I learned that forgiveness can be selfish. The goal is to get rid of the emotional baggage – that’s the real weight.

Letting go of pain hurts and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. I invite you to hurt because you deserve to be free. The hardest person for me to forgive was me for being my own worst enemy. I found solace in Maya Angelou’s words:

“I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
I promise you that it’s worth it in spades.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.