Q: I really liked your piece on forgiveness. It made me want to ask what you think of the concept of forgiving yourself? Asking for a narcissist half horse-half man.
I’m sitting at a bar on a particularly gloomy night. I was having trouble with this question, and not for lack of recollection of all the times in my life where I chose to bury my head in the proverbial sand rather than face myself. Oh no, I remember. I have been a master of avoidance for most of my life and as a result have won multiple titles including worst girlfriend, most disappointing daughter, flakiest friend. Having traded avoidance for head-on confrontation, I’m sure I’ve now amassed a whole new set of titles. Understanding that I will never please everyone helps, but remembering to understand that doesn’t come naturally for most of us.
I’m looking around this room, trying to see if I can sense something that will inspire me not to have to write about myself. A face marked with palpable regret, a brain full of thoughts of deep impending doom. So, basically, an extension of myself. Because ultimately, isn’t that what we all are?
I see a guy sitting to my left. I see that he sees me, seeing him. I see him get up and start making his way towards me. I’m still typing when he appears in front of me.
“You texting someone?”
I stare at him incredulously, as if he fell from the sky. But I can tell this isn’t necessarily going to be an annoying encounter. The kind that would require me to beat my chest and let out a #metoo war cry. I’m exhausted. I don’t need that at this juncture in my life. He smiles sweetly, though drunk-ly, and I invite him to sit. I tell him I’m writing this response to you.
“Well, shit. You have to forgive yourself. How do you allow yourself to grow if you don’t? You can’t hold on to every mistake you’ve made, god knows seventy percent of the people in your life will, so you might as well use that narcissism to let yourself off the hook!”
I find this funny but because I can see his raw weakness I also find it true. What Donnie Drunk-o has just given us is the power to use a dark part of ourselves for good. Using chaos for peace of mind. As a fan of recycling, I am pleased.
As the old saying goes, no one’s perfect. Yet, even as imperfect beings, we are sometimes judged by others to a standard they created based on their own virtues. I sometimes think about the people who’ve done me wrong and my instinct is to scoff at them, like, “I would never do that!” Well, guess what? Apparently they would. There are things I’ve done that I know someone on some corner of this cornerless world would scoff at, too. It’s all a little confusing and might take some time to unravel, but put it this way: if a person can somehow forgive someone for causing an accident that takes their loved one’s life, if another person can forgive their cousin Brenda for stealing their money for gambling purposes (again), if yet another human being can look their cheating partner in the eye without wanting to stab it out of their face, you can forgive yourself.
You probably owe it to yourself. Life is so heavy as is, why give yourself that extra baggage? When you can admit to and learn from your past transgressions, you give yourself the tools to change future outcomes of future situations. Like a magician of sorts. Leave the self-loathing to Bojack.