Forgiveness is Critical for Your Self Image
By Pastor Lonnie G. McCowan
A lady made this statement “I’m going to die alone with 33 cats. And I don’t even like cats.”
I overheard this comment while I was waiting for my coffee at the local Starbucks. And with a statement like that, I just had to turn to look at her. She was a nice looking woman probably in her late 20’s sitting at a nearby table with one of her girlfriends.
From what I could gather, this young woman had once again freaked when someone got too interested in her and had ended a relationship. “I don’t know why I do this,” she groaned to her friend.
Normally, I don’t listen to other people’s conversations but sometimes it happens. I mean really, is it my fault that the only unoccupied table happened to be the one next to them? Anyway, interestingly enough, they then started discussing her recent trip to visit her family and how she felt that they’d almost completely ignored her the entire time. She’d travelled a long way to visit them and in return they’d left her at home to watch TV while they went out. It had been devastatingly hurtful to her.
“Bingo,” I thought. “Her past is haunting her future. That’s most likely why she’s having relationship problems.” My guess is that she feels her family doesn’t value her so how could anyone else think she’s wonderful when they don’t? Rejection by family is especially hard because that is the one relationship you tend to believe is unconditional. A hundred people could tell you, “you are the most incredible person in the world” but it is that one rejection by a family member that you will hold on to for your self-image. You end up subconsciously thinking it’s better to push others away before they discover that terrible secret that only your family knows. That you’re not worth it. Of course this isn’t true but once the ideas are formed in your mind it’s difficult to move beyond them.
My guess would be that she’s never forgiven her parents for how she feels they’ve treated her and for her low self-esteem. I’m sure the incident she spoke of was just one in many such events throughout her life. Her whole self-image is now wrapped up in this resentment that she holds. I didn’t say it to her but the sad thing is that she’s doomed to continue following the same pattern in all her relationships until she changes herself through her thoughts. No guy is ever going to make it past her barriers until she does. It’s not her actions that will change the situation, it is her thoughts. And in order to change her thinking, she needs to start with forgiveness.
Forgiveness is Critical for Your Self Image
You need to forgive everyone who’s ever done anything to you for which you still feel resentment. This is something you do for yourself, not the other person. When you think about it, whatever that person did to you wasn’t about you at all. It was totally about them and how they view the world. Just like in the above example, her parents’ behavior didn’t have anything to do with her. It was about them. They were doing what they thought was the right thing to do. Just like in whatever you do, you do it because you think it’s the correct decision at that moment. Later on, you might think it wasn’t the best choice, but at that particular point in time, it was what you thought was the best action to take. You were doing your best in the situation with whatever knowledge you had at the time. This is what everyone does. So, even though, we may not agree with it, they’re doing their best. And she may not like how her parents treat her but they are doing the best that they know how. Parents aren’t perfect yet we want them to be. They’re where we got our self-image from, they need to be perfect. It’s a big shift in consciousness when you realize someone else actions and opinions do not make you the person you are. Only you can do that. You get to decide what you think about yourself but until you forgive that other person, you won’t be able to get beyond the initial resentment.
Let me confess a secret here. I used to feel that I just wasn’t “good enough” because even though my mom was very loving and in my life my father was not when I was a child. As I got older I got free”, it was simply a matter of looking at the situation from a different perspective that enabled me to finally move beyond that destructive self-image. Who do you need to forgive today so you can be free?
Lonnie G. McCowan is pastor at The Miracle Center of Ventura, in Ventura, CA. He can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.miraclecenterventura.com.