The last months of the year are typically accompanied by a time of self-reflection, where the facts of our lives serve as headline copy towards a final assessment and punctuation of the year. Some years end with a simple, tidy period. Some end with a semicolon, colon or other connector in the continuation of a new chapter or circumstances. Others end with a loud exclamation point of change.
With holiday celebrations and networking events on the horizon, our final judgments are magnified during interactions with family, friends, colleagues and associates. We are confronted with a revisiting of past versions of ourselves—sometimes literally, in the passing of old portraits in family hallways. There are people who may feel compelled to remind you of past behavior that does not resonate with who you are in the present, in an effort to win the competition they are having with you in their mind. There are other people who love and respect you, who will candidly voice their criticism—not with malicious intent to destroy your hopes or spirit, but in an effort to intervene and build upon the value they see in you. In either instance, the criticism received has a tendency to sting the worst, when it is further supporting the closing arguments of your counsel against yourself.
Maybe you missed your mark this year. You didn't rehearse your monologues or make yourself one-hundred ready for auditions. You didn’t get into the studio to record as planned. You didn’t execute on the startup you’ve been dreaming about. You procrastinated on starting the novel or screenplay. Maybe you’ve overindulged and put on extra weight… or, you’ve slipped back into self-destructive patterns or relationships. Maybe you mismanaged a professional opportunity, or conversely, despite your best efforts, you failed to meet your goals due to external factors and roadblocks that deterred your plans. No matter what the issue, this time of year is the perfect time to reset or establish a new strategic plan of action for these final months of the year into the next—however, for maximum effectiveness in executing a new plan, the release of encumbrances from failed expectations is essential.
The topic of forgiveness within culture is traditionally tailored towards addressing offense, crime or violence suffered from the hands of others, particularly in the chaos of today’s climate. When we hold ourselves in offense for our own shortcomings, we have the tendency to treat ourselves more harshly than others in an attempt to self-atone and rise above our guilt. We simultaneously act as judge, lead counsel and defendant, internalizing a doubling of guilt and anger that over time converts to depression—which further inhibits our progress.
The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most recognizable passages of scripture throughout culture. Part of the prayer encloses a request of God for the forgiveness of our debts, and an empowering towards a likened posture of strength and love for the forgiveness of those who have offended us. It is a powerful statement of mindfulness, reminding us of the grace that we are afforded from day-to-day and our inability to make amends towards our own salvation. Forgiveness is a gift that is freely given from God upon asking, and likewise is a gift that we are encouraged to give to others, and particularly ourselves. As infallible and infinite as his knowledge and circumference are, if God is gracious enough in his omnipotence and righteousness to forgive us our debts, spiritually or otherwise, then we have full authority to pay it forward in his likeness and forgive ourselves as an extension of his love for us. As John, one of Christ’s disciples, once stated: if we confess our faults, God is faithful and just to forgive us—and bridge our transformation to our highest selves.
True self-forgiveness can be achieved through a heart of transparency, self-accountability and self-love—versus repeated denial of our contribution to our failures. It can be difficult at times to forgive yourself, as we are sometimes unable to reconcile preconceived images of our own power and strength with the reality of our current weaknesses—but, despite whatever failures of this year or previous years, be gracious and give yourself the gift of self-love and forgiveness. Take this time before the holidays to cancel the debts of your shortcomings and reboot your actions towards the achievement of your goals. No one is perfect, and no matter the level of success, self-awareness and self-forgiveness will always be attributes that are critical towards realizing and maintaining personal and career achievement.
Love one another. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Perspective matters.