Mistakes are a fact of life. Some small blunders are easily fixed; other bigger failings must be painfully repaired – all are part of our human experience. We are fallible. We err. We are imperfect.

As a minister, I frequently listen to people disclose their mistakes. I hear of less than optimal decisions, indiscretions, failings; in private and in public; intentionally and unintentionally –

We screw up.

I have come to believe that forgiveness is incomplete without forgiving ourselves. Failing to self-forgive feeds an increasingly toxic corrosion of our thoughts, feelings, bodies and spirits. While shame and guilt can serve as positive initial motivators to make amends, unresolved guilt festers, poisoning our self-esteems and our outlooks.

It can be difficult to forgive ourselves sometimes depending on our self image and our individual perspectives regarding our mistakes. Perhaps even worse, we tend to believe that our families and friends would never forgive us if they knew even half of the other things we’ve done.

The fact is that we are all wounded and we all wound. Maybe this is the essence of our interconnectedness.

Some suggestions:

Accept responsibility for your behavior and move on. Avoid wallowing in self-pity and drama which only tends to perpetuate internal bad feelings. Own it.

Accept yourself and your flaws. You are imperfect and have defects… and so we are. The struggle to be good enough is real. While it’s OK to strive to be the best we can be, pay attention to your internal critical dialogues. Your silent self-talk speaks volumes about your evaluations and judgments. Think: Am I my own worse enemy?

Perfectionism is a perpetually self-defeating and losing game. I have witnessed too many “crash and burn” relationships and careers from unreasonably rigid standards that prove to be a set up for failure from day one.

Categorize your mistakes with honesty and integrity. Is it really as bad as you think/feel it is? Maintain perspective. Be sure that the meaning you are giving to the faux pas is accurate and real. Fear can lead us down some dark and self-defeating paths.

Realize that forgiveness does not mean “everything is now OK;” that you condone the error or that you will forget the mistake.

Ask for forgiveness. This is exactly where “I am sorry” should be practiced. Yes, it can be humiliating. Deal with it. You did it. Remember that there are many ways to apologize.

You don’t have to be religious to confess your sins. “Confessing” is a powerful psychological method for claiming our truth and admitting who we are. You can confess to God, a minister or any object you deem sacred. A woman I recently counseled chose to forgive herself while hiking alone at Red Rock Canyon in a monologue to her deceased father.

There is a huge difference between doing something and being something. Never forget that one mistake does not define your identity.

Talk it out. Ask for a second opinion from a trusted friend who may have another perspective. Get professional help as needed. This is particularly true if you are one to ruminate your sins or if your mistake has potential for catastrophic fallout.

Forgive yourself… repeatedly… Frankly forgive yourself enough times for you to finally…forgive yourself. Every forgiveness guru I’ve read agrees: forgiveness is a process.

Real forgiveness is a means to an end. It’s a tool to reconcile and to make amends.

Got mistakes?


Lent: 40 Days of Self Acceptance?

Lent is an annual Christian religious observance of 40 days, from Ash Wednesday through 6 weeks lasting until Easter Sunday. Believers are expected to prepare themselves spiritually by saying special prayers and blessings, doing acts of penance, repenting for their sins, almsgiving, making atonement and performing acts of self-denial. Frequently persons will abstain from eating meat, enjoying their favorite foods or denying themselves some gratification for the duration.

Lent honors the the story of the 40 days Jesus spent alone in the desert prior to beginning his public ministry which culminated in his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. During that time, the New Testament tells us Jesus fasted in the desert and overcame a series of temptations by the Devil. Indeed, for most Christians, Lent is a sacred time for self-reflection and preparation for Easter, the most holy day of the Christian year.

As a boy and young adult, I took Lent very seriously practicing a wide range of spiritual techniques based on what I realize now were very negative messages regarding my sinful unworthiness. I profoundly accepted that I was a bad boy born with the defect of original sin. I harbored guilt and sorrow quite well and could easily remind myself of my sins, faults and weaknesses.

Since then, I’ve spent the past 35 years of my professional life counseling thousands of people. Almost every person I’ve encountered as a pastoral counselor or minister is broken in some way. Broken thoughts, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken spirits – we are broken. Indeed, I’ve spent most of my life helping people fix themselves.

I do not dishonor Lent or its spiritual practices. I am aware that most Christians find purpose, meaning and comfort in the season.

But this Lent, I am an interfaith minister. My meditation shows me a different path. I choose to share it in the hopes that it may resonate with some blog followers looking for an alternative road to healing.

This Lent, I’m suggesting 40 days of self-acceptance.

Think about it.
What would it be like if you prayed for and blessed yourself?
If your special prayers included gratitude for being created in the image and likeness of the Universe?
If your repentance included your own self-forgiveness?
If your set money aside to to provide a little bit of charity for yourself?
If your atonement for your sins/failings/mistakes included making amends to yourself?
If you practiced acts of self-approval, self-affirmation and self-acceptance?

Imagine celebrating the very best of who you are…your real self-worth…for 40 days.
40 days of positive inner conversations; 40 days of focused attention on who you are and where you’re going; 40 days of self-nurturing.

I dare say we’re all really excellent sinners. We know how to do bad things quite well – to ourselves and to each other. We’ve got evil down.
We’re already masters at malicious thoughts, angry feelings, unhealthy behaviors and disillusioned spirits.

This Lent, consider some self-love. I am especially shouting out to those of you are struggle with depression, anxiety and addiction.
Consider making this Lent different.

I’m not talking narcissistic, exaggerated self-importance or public ego games played out in social media.
I am talking celebrating the best of who you are while trying on some new ways to experience yourself with less judgment and a little more adventure.

Celebrate your miracle. Happy Lent!

As always, I welcome your comments. Blessings.

Lent: 40 Days of Self Acceptance?