Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.
It’s that time of year again: Time for me to reflect on the past year, to evaluate, and to identify a new goal for 2012. For me, this is a process of evaluating my personal growth. Am I a better person today than I was 365 days ago? What can I personally work on in the next 12 months that will enhance my life and as a result, enhance the lives of those whose lives I touch?
I think that the next level of my personal growth involves forgiveness. Like most of the people who cross the threshold of my office door, my childhood was less than ideal. My family, like so many others, is imperfect. My parents, who I love, were in desperate need of parenting skills and the absence thereof resulted in what I call trickle down dysfunction, much of which effected me, the youngest. As an adult, I have tried to work through these issues and I’ve had a fair amount of success, but navigating my relationships with the complicated members who make up my family continues to be an ongoing challenge for me.
I speak to my clients endlessly about the importance of focusing on themselves; of not making their peace and happiness contingent on the cooperation of other people. I’ve assured my clients that this is the only real path to wellbeing. This year I’ve decided to put my rhetoric to the test: For the next 365 days, my focus will be on forgiveness.
In preparation for this new goal, I’ve done a fair amount of research on the topic of forgiveness. Most people begin this journey because they want to rid themselves of anger or of a desire for revenge. For me, forgiveness is not so much about letting go of a grudge or revenge, rather, letting go of the hope for an apology or of an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. I find it easy to forgive those who ask to be forgiven. I have found it virtually impossible to forgive those who not only fail to ask for it, but who take no responsibility for the mistakes they’ve made. I suspect therein lies the problem: If I’m waiting for others to change in order to feel better, I may be waiting forever.
There are about a billion books written on the topic of forgiveness. I suppose I’ll have to buy one and read it, since I don’t have the slightest idea of how to begin this process. I found an objective way of measuring my current level of forgiveness. Click here to see the questionnaire. The questionnaire tested for 3 areas of forgiveness (forgiveness of self, others & situations). I measured my level today and I'll measure it again next December. My scores are as follows: (self=24; others=17; situations=20; total forgiveness=61). In terms of forgiving myself, I'm as statistically likely to forgive myself as I am unlikely to forgive myself (for me, everything depends on the situation). In terms of forgiving others, I am usually unforgiving (no shock here). In terms of forgiving situations, I'm as likely to forgive as I am unlikely to forgive. Again, it depends on the circumstances.
At the end of this journey, maybe I’ll have a little more compassion in my heart. If not for them, than maybe for myself. I mean really... Who the hell does this?