"Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different." - Oprah Winfrey
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word "forgive" is to cease to feel resentment against (an offender). How many times have we told others, "I forgive you"? Now, how many times have we actually been brave enough to say this to to ourselves?
Time and time again, once we realize we've hurt someone else, we attempt to seek out their forgiveness without taking the time to examine our own inner shortcomings and figuring out how to forgive ourselves.
Jada Pinkett Smith has consistently provided us with words of wisdom, whether it's via her Facebook series Red Table Talk or directly through her Instagram page. Recently, the 46-year-old actress took to The Gram to express her own definition of forgiveness, why self-forgiveness and self-love go hand in hand, and why even though we may be able to forgive others, they don't always get to continue on with us on our paths.
Self-awareness is not an easy thing to achieve. It's a daily practice that can be excruciating but also liberating. Pinkett Smith says that she had to look "into the shadows of her own heart" to find a way to just forgive herself for the pain she's caused others in order to move past the guilt she carried. She says:
"I've been sitting here and just thinking about forgiveness and—it's been a deep journey for me because I've had to look into the shadows of my own heart and understand how I've hurt other people and forgive myself for any wrong acts that I might have committed or any pain I might have caused other people. I had to clear myself of my own pain, my own guilt and have compassion for myself and have forgiveness for myself."
Forgiving yourself is one of the most important tools we can include in our self-care regimens. While we might be faced with the disappointment we feel from the actions of others, we are also accountable for the mistakes we can only place squarely on our own shoulders. Often, the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we've made or the hurt we've caused, but it is essential to inner peace.
We have to learn to take these disappointments and mistakes as lessons rather than reasons to continue be dragged down.
The Girls Trip star says that once she learned to forgive herself, she was then able to begin to forgive others. She reveals:
"And that actually gave me the power to forgive other people. It came through me releasing myself and having the ability and understanding of how important it is to release other people, and that none of us are perfect—we're in this together learning how to love. And forgiveness is not really about the other person: it's really about us."
If you can be sure about anything in this world, it's that no one in this world is perfect. Sometimes you have to forgive someone who never intends to apologize, and that's okay. Sometimes you may ask for forgiveness only to be met with rejection, and that's okay too. But in order to move forward, the most important person to forgive is ourselves.
We can't control whether or not the other person will forgive us, but we can control if we have compassion for ourselves.
But what about those people who have done the unthinkable? What about the things that feel like even the Lord himself wouldn't forgive? Forgive anyway. Not everyone who we forgive is meant to remain in our lives, no matter how hard it may be to let them go. For Pinkett Smith, we need to seek out the self-love that we need in order to finally move through this "delicate process" of forgiveness. She captioned her post by saying:
"But...there are acts committed against us that are so horrific our only choice is to give it to the Mother/Father to fill us with a healing needed to find the 'God Love' wishing that gives us the 'Self Love' we need...to forgive. It's all a delicate process where I also had to realize that just because my heart might embrace and forgive...doesn't mean that person should be standing beside me."
One of my first forays into learning how to truly forgive someone else happened while I was still in college. I was harboring a legitimate reason to be angry and remained resentful towards someone whose own "karma" eventually caught up with them. That "thing" I carried around for nearly two years, gnawed at me incessantly until, finally, the reality of the situation became clearer: I was only hurting myself waiting for an apology I was likely never going to receive. Nelson Mandela once said, "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies," and I found this to be true more and more over the years.
Finally, I was able to let go.
I was able to forgive simply because if I hadn't, I might still be carrying that baggage with me today. Now, I am working on taking Jada's advice and learning to forgive myself more.
I'm learning to forgive myself for the serious mistakes I've made, for the things I knew not to do but did anyway, and to forgive myself for being so hard on myself in general. Again, none of this is easy, but the times I've been able to do this, I've felt weights lifting off of my shoulders.
Self-work leads to self-mastery, and forgiveness isn't just reserved for others: we deserve to give it to ourselves, too.
Jada's Red Table Talk returns in October only on Facebook Watch.