Maya Angelou on Forgiving yourself

“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better, I’d have done better’. That’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you, when a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”

Maya Angelou

This feels invaluable. Maya’s understanding of forgiveness – of self or another – does not involve saying things were/are okay. It may (in the case of self) involve words/acts of reparation, and certainly includes an acceptance of personal responsibility. It may (in the case of another) involve withdrawal from ongoing relationship, if the relationship is harmful or not conducive to growth.

Maya focuses on what we need to do, in order to be able to move on and open to new growth. Hers is a compassionate and enhancing approach to accountability – in place of the circular, harm-perpetuating, shame-and-blame witch hunt so prevalent in our culture.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

This entry was posted in accountability, actualizing tendency, blaming, compassion, conditions of worth, core conditions, empathy, empowerment, external locus, forgiveness, growth, internal locus of evaluation, kindness & compassion, Maya Angelou, power and powerlessness, self, self concept and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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