On forgiving others and forgiving ourselves

Have you had one of those sleepless nights where you’re in bed, your body is aching and yet your brain’s working – knowing that sleep is just embrace away but when you try to hold it, it slips away?

Well, that’s a very poetic way to describe insomnia, and yesterday, I just couldn’t get myself to sleep.

During those excruciating hours, I kept on tossing and turning, and creating a mental imagery in my head to buy a bedside lamp as soon as possible. Ever since I watched the movie PS. I Love You, I have always wanted to buy a bedside lamp. Clearly, I hate being all cozy in bed only to come to the realisation that I have to kick this wonderful blanket and walk to the other side of the room to turn off the lights. There’s an exact same scene in the movie. Holly keeps on tripping due to the dark, and she wants a bedside lamp. I want it too.

For the longest time, I was hugging my pillow and thinking of what kind of lamp should I be getting, and how much an IKEA one will cost. Then I was thinking about something else, something that’s not entirely foreign but not necessarily pleasant.

I was thinking about regrets.

Probably it’s because of those Divergent books. I just finished reading the trilogy last week, and while I didn’t really like them, some of the themes did strike a core. In the third book, Tris constantly felt guilty about killing her friend Will, long after Will’s girlfriend (and also Tris’s best friend) Christina forgave her. I wonder: is it really harder for us to forgive ourselves, compared to receiving forgiveness from others?

Perhaps. It sounds plausible.

I mean, does it not seem selfish, for us to forgive ourselves? What authority, what privilege do we actually have to have the power to forgive and forget about our own worst deeds? Say there is an alcoholic husband who has neglected his family for years. He then asks for forgiveness – asks for a second chance. His wife forgives him and moves on. But should the husband be living free of any of his past wrongdoings, or should he feel guilty for having done his mistake all the time?

Living freely means moving on. But doesn’t it mean downgrading the severity of his past deed? Living guiltily just creates a tormented life environment. But doesn’t it mean that the husband is truly sorry for what he did?

It’s like arguing that your past doesn’t dictate your future, but at the same time your past creates who you are. It’s a never-ending debate.

Me? Well, I still have my regrets. I still regret making certain mistakes, and sometimes, I truly wonder whether I have forgiven myself for making them. I’ve hurt other people, yes, we have all moved on, yes. But sadly forgiveness is not a switch where you can just snap your finger and be done with it. I think forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, is a continuous act. Like drinking water. You’re able to quench your thirst now, but in two hours you will be thirsty once more. So you pour another glass, again.

The trick is to make peace with it. To forgive yourself, you have to accept the version of yourself that did that mistake. Then instead of having a water metaphor, you’ll have a coffee metaphor. And probably a coke metaphor, because I never really drink coke anymore.

I poured a glass of wine and the pain dulled down. I realised that forgiving ourselves might actually be a much harder deed than forgiving others. After making another mental note to write this story down the next day, sleep welcomed me.


Photo by Cameron Bathory, Creative Commons