In yesterday’s blog, I wrote on the topic of forgiveness and the on-going, figure eight shaped process we are invited to undergo in that journey. In today’s blog, I explore more deeply the stage of forgiveness that includes what I call, “The Dreaded Life Review,” the time when our “life sins” show up and ask for our compassion.
What Happens When We Hurt Somebody?
As human beings, we are programmed to seek out connection and to work toward cultivating healthy, intimate, cooperative and collaborative relationships with our fellow human beings. The root cause and destination of this search is our very survival. We cannot continue as a species without the kind of intimate connections that lead to procreation, neither can we survive (very well) on our own. Like wolves, we are pack animals and thrive when existing within cooperative community. As such, in most human beings (sociopaths being the exception) there are certain biophysical and chemical reactions within the body that work toward ensuring this kind of intimate, cooperative connection. When we stray from the path of harmonious connectivity and do or say or act in such a way as to harm already existing connections or in ways that might prevent harmonious connections, there is a feeling that arises. This feeling arises to alert us to the fact that either we have done something to harm these fragile connections or that someone has done something to us that threatens healthy connectivity. I call this feeling SHAME. In other words, when we hurt someone, we feel shame. When someone does something to hurt us (especially as it pertains to our own healthy boundaries), we feel shame. This feeling arises naturally as a way to alert us to the potential danger of disconnect and to invite us to work toward restoring a healthy and harmonious connection (or to recognize where healthy, intimate connectivity is not possible or where danger, in fact, might be present). The problem with shame is that instead of simply observing it as a signal, we internalize it and turn it into the destructive emotion of guilt – judging and punishing ourselves and judging and punishing others.
The Dreaded Life Review
When we internalize this benevolent and helpful inner signal, and turn it against ourselves in the form of judgment and guilt, then we get what I call “the dreaded life review.” In this life review, we get to see and observe and remember…sometimes in excruciating detail, all the “sins” of our lives….all the ways in which we have consciously or unconsciously hurt or injured a fellow human being. If we are judgmental and critical of self or tend toward self-loathing, this dreaded life review can be an exercise in self-flagellation and self-punishment. “Woe is me, I am a sinner. Woe is me, I am undeserving of love, forgiveness. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms……and I deserve it for how terrible I have been and continue to be.” ARGH!!!!! This little exercise in self-loathing is us pointing the finger of judgment and blame upon ourselves. And if we are “God-fearing” people, we are sure to imagine that God is shaking HIS finger of blame at us and just waiting to hurl the fire and brimstone of eternal punishment our way.
God-fearing vs. God-loving
The good news is that the only one punishing us for our “sinful” behavior is ourselves. We are the one pointing the finger of judgement and blame while God is simply there holding us and waiting for us to ask to be released from the judgment that we are so good at heaping upon ourselves. Like the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son, it was the son who judged himself for having chosen separation from his father. The father, simply welcomed his son home with open arms and held a great celebration, never shaking the finger of judgment or blame. If Jesus understood God to be like the father in the story, then isn’t this the God we too are invited to know? I think so.
Healing the Life Review
So, when the dreaded life review rears its ugly head, and we are tempted to fall into the pit of self-loathing, there is one thing we must do…….FORGIVE ourselves. We are invited to look at the places in our lives where we have injured the fragile, intimate human connections and offer them for release. We are invited to examine the deeper fears and unhealed wounds that may have caused us to hurt another and lift that up for healing and release. And we are invited to STOP judging, punishing and hurling fire and brimstone upon ourselves. The good news is again, we are not alone in this as there is a benevolent, loving, compassionate Source that is just waiting for us to lift the guilt off ourselves and place it in God’s loving hands where it can be healed and released, freeing us to return to the healthy and life-giving process of forgiveness, absolution and reconciliation.
Where have you experienced the “dreaded life review?”
Where are you tempted to indulge in self-judgment, punishment and self-loathing?
Where are you being invited to give your self-judgment and guilt over for healing and release?
Authentic Freedom Ministries