“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)
These words that Jesus gave us presupposes that we authentically love ourselves; not pompous self-love and selfish affirmations such as those that are so commonly taught in today’s secular self-help books, but with authentic, Christ-driven charity. “Love is patient, Love is kind …” (1 Cor. 13:4)
Let’s start right there. Begin at the beginning. Love is patient.
Yet how patient are we with ourselves? Quite often when we make a mistake, rather than trying to fix it and move on, recognizing the experience as a way to further self-growth, we instead (from an unconscious lack of self-love and self-forgiveness) get stuck and dwell on what we did wrong. Instead of remedying a mistake, making apologies where necessary and then moving on, we remedy the mistake but then sink into a web of guilt and churning thoughts. We can’t stop thinking about what we’ve done, dwelling over it with “if only I had done this or that or some-other-thing instead,” “how could I have been so stupid?” and other negative self-talk. It is far easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. Shame, humiliation, regret, guilt … these are all things that can prove to be difficult to overcome.
How do we move forward in self-forgiveness in order to love ourselves as much as we love others? The first step, I believe, rests in Divine Mercy. The love of Jesus knows no bounds, and if He can forgive us all our sins, what right have we do cling to them and refuse to forgive ourselves? “Be at peace, My child. See, you are not alone. My Heart watches over you,” Jesus promised St. Faustina and therefore, by extension, us. (The Diary of St. Faustina, Notebook II, 799). We have to trust Jesus, and His forgiveness. This paves the way for trusting and forgiving ourselves.
Not remembering Jesus’ Sacred Heart and the unyielding forgiveness He extends to us is like forgetting the sacrifice of the Cross. We have to allow ourselves forgiveness, because to not forgive ourselves, especially after receiving the precious sacrament of Reconciliation, is not to trust Jesus.
Jesus, I trust in You.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.