Despite what you may believe, you can disappoint people
and still be good enough. You can make mistakes and still
be capable and talented. You can let people down and
still be worthwhile and deserving of love.
Everyone has disappointed someone they care about.
Everyone messes up, lets people down and makes mistakes.
Not because we are inadequate or fundamentally inept,
but because we're imperfect and fundamentally human.
Expecting anything different is setting yourself up
- Danielle Keopke
A friend sent this to me the other day and I then turned around and posted it on facebook because I think this is so very essential a part of what so many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Of course this isn't true for everyone. I have met people who will not or can not be self-reflective. But I think that most of us, or at least most of the amazing people I've been blessed to encounter, to work with, to play with and to call my friends, tend to be on the other side of this. We tend to be people who are all too aware of our failings, our mistakes, our mess-ups. But instead of feeling human, we feel inadequate, inept, a disappointment to others and especially to ourselves. We struggle with self forgiveness and struggle to feel "good enough".
Why is this? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Part of the reason I think is that sometimes other people are hard on us. Interestingly it is often those who are hardest on themselves who also have the hardest time forgiving others. But those critical and unforgiving voices of other people can become our own strict voices within that tell us we are not okay. Often that starts when we are young. Adults who are hard on themselves impose strict and even unrealistic expectations on the kids in their lives and those voices stay within us. Finding a way to offer gentle correction is hard and time consuming and sometimes it is easier to yell or put down another person rather than correct their behavior in a gentle and encouraging way. It is easier to just say "bad" than to look at what we can learn from each error and how we can move forward. Once those voices become a part of us, they are really difficult to banish.
And yet, I believe a big part of being people of faith is that we are called to do exactly that - to let go of that anger and hatred and judgment - not only of other people but of ourselves. In Christianity (as I'm certain is true in other faiths as well) we focus a great deal on God's forgiveness of us. But I think the fact that we don't take that in, don't accept that forgiveness as genuine and full and real is a great part of what leads so many who use the name "Christian" to be so very judging of others. If we can't see ourselves as simply human people who are loved and accepted and held and cared for exactly as we are, then it becomes difficult to extend that love, acceptance, presence and compassion to others. But when we can accept that in, when we can really and truly embrace that yes, we are human, we make mistakes, sometimes mistakes that have real life consequences, but none the less mistakes that do not define us beyond that moment, we can be freed to start again in each moment. That starting again, that taking of mistakes as life lessons, not as judgments on our worth; if we can see our errors as opportunities to grow rather than condemnations that relegate us eternally to being "wrong" and a "disappointment" then we will not have time or energy to condemn others. We will be too busy learning and passing forward forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, peace, compassion and grace. There just simply won't be the energy or impetus to judge, condemn or destroy others.
In other words, it is not just a gift to ourselves to stop judging ourselves. It is a gift to everyone we encounter as well because it will change the way we see and interact with the world.
It isn't easy to get there. I know this. I, too, can be very self-condemning. And along with that, I can be hard on others, especially those I love the most. But I think it is an important goal for all of us to remember the words above by Danielle Keopke. Because you are okay. Just as you are, you are okay. Yes, you've made mistakes. That gives you lessons to learn. That gives you an opportunity to grow. But you are still okay. You are a beloved child of God (or the Universe or whatever it is you recognize as bigger than yourself). And that is an amazing thing indeed.