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I got to connect with one of my readers today and she gave me the sweetest compliment. She said, “You have this tenacity for living and it inspires me and it makes my personality come out.”

This touched me so deeply and I want to dedicate this post to you Sharon Elaines and all the beings on my journey who have given so much to help me see things differently.

Humans make mistakes. Sometimes catastrophic mistakes. The kind of mistakes that make us wonder how we could ever forgive ourselves.

I had panic attacks my entire childhood and into my teens. When they set in, I was overcome with the thought that I had done something horrible, something I could never take back.

Maybe it happened in a different life. All I know is the feeling of being fundamentally unforgivable had been burned into my DNA since the day I was born.

And then there have been the mistakes of this lifetime. So many.

I have used people to satisfy my ego, nearly wrecked my marriage, neglected to do everything I could to save someone and they died.

It is my spiritual perspective that we attract experiences to us so that we can learn from them. And we’ll keep attracting them over and over until we finally learn what we need to.

I don’t expect you, dear reader, to agree with my spiritual perspective and I don’t share this to justify or excuse the pain that others experience.

It’s just how I make sense of things.

Recently I ordered some chicks. They were delivered late because of the snow storms and I for various reasons I couldn’t pick them up until late in the day. I set them up in a spot I thought would work. I’ve raised chicks twice before so I thought I knew what I was doing.

When I took them out of their box, two were already gone. The others were lethargic.

I know it wasn’t entirely my fault. But in retrospect, I let them get too cold. One by one, all of the babies died.

I’ve been sitting with this for the past two weeks. Rehashing all the things I should have done differently. Asking myself over and over how to offer myself forgiveness when lives were lost in part because of my own negligence.

And here’s what I’ve learned about self forgiveness.

Guilt can show us how to do things differently the next time. But shame makes us incapable of turning towards our mistakes to learn.

When we carry shame, some of us would rather numb the pain so we turn ourselves into addicts.

When we carry shame, some of us would rather put the responsibility on the outside world so we turn bitter, angry and mean.

When we carry shame, some of us would do anything but face our mistakes, so we make other people wrong, we point fingers, we externalize our own shame.

When we carry shame, some of us seek to make up for it by punishing ourselves. We deny ourselves love, compassion and understanding. And then we attract sickness, disease and struggle into our lives as a “penance.”

For me, over the years, it has been all of the above.

And what I’ve learned is that in this energy of shame where I can’t see a path to self forgiveness, I repel goodness from my life because a part of me believes I don’t deserve it.

I have spent so much of my energy running from my mistakes instead of offering myself forgiveness.

And what I finally see is that the constant running keeps me from fully coming into myself and the gifts I have to share to with the world. I cannot show up in service to humanity the way I want to when I carry all this shame.

The irony is that I’m writing a book called Forgiving Amy and five years into this writing project, I am finally learning how to forgive myself.

Here are some ways I work to forgive myself:

I feel my feelings. I don’t try to escape them. I sit with them in acceptance, and I give myself compassion while I experience them.

I repeat the Ho’oponopono prayer: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

I journal about my feelings and write about my experiences.

I do things to honor the beings I have hurt by learning from my mistakes, taking responsibility for them and finding rituals to acknowledge the hurt I have caused others.

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, I hope this post inspires you to let your personality come out. May it give you the courage to look at your own mistakes with compassion, honesty and grace. Please don’t feel the need to offer me your thoughts on why the chicks may have passed or the choices I made around that. Thank you so much.

P.P.S. I’d love to hear how this post impacts you personally and any other strategies you have used to give yourself grace after your mistakes.