Forgiving Ourselves

by Erin Faulkner

April 18, 2023

Go to your local bookstore or search on Amazon and you will find books to teach you just about anything. There are even books about parenting. The difference between a book about cooking and a book about parenting is that cooking is, for the most part, predictable and routine. If you have the skills and follow the recipe, you will most likely get good results.

But we can’t predict what will happen to our children. We can’t control their every move. As much as we try, we can’t always prevent them from getting sick or hurt. Sometimes, we make the right decisions. Sometimes, we make the wrong ones. There may even be times where we did nothing wrong, but we think that someone is to blame for what has happened or is happening to our child, so we blame ourselves.

When I was 24, I found out that I have a hereditary condition called Stickler Syndrome. It is a connective tissue disorder that affects vision, eye health, hearing, joints and sometimes the heart. There is a 50% chance that this condition will be passed down to each offspring. There is no way to know if it will happen or how severely the children will be affected. Six years later, I chose to have a child anyway. We knew before we left the hospital that my daughter had Stickler Syndrome, as well. Because I had the condition, at first, I didn’t feel the guilt. But as she got older, she started recognizing and feeling some of the unpleasantness associated with this condition: looking different due to her size and thick glasses, not being able to hear well and needing hearing aids, experiencing pain, and being injured easily. How could I have done this to her? Why did I choose to do this? Was I selfish? However, as much as I felt guilty and cried for her emotional and physical pain, I wouldn’t go back and change my decision. My love for her is greater than the guilt of the challenges I gave her.

I had guilt which then changed to acceptance. This led to forgiveness. An internet search of self-forgiveness defined it as “a positive attitudinal shift in the feelings, actions, and beliefs about the self, following a self-perceived transgression or wrongdoing committed by the self” I needed to change those negative feelings about myself into positive ones. Instead of feeling anger at myself for causing her suffering, I feel pride in her resilience. Instead of feeling guilty for my selfishness, I feel a sense of accomplishment for having navigated the many systems to get her where she is today - health, insurance, school.

One of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness is Emotional. One of the definitions is “being kind to yourself as you experience a wide range of emotions.” We don’t always get it right. We want to remember our mistakes, so that we learn from them. But don’t dwell on them, or you won’t be able to enjoy the future.

I will leave you with this quote by Lori Deschene that I coincidentally saw on Facebook this week.

"Forgive yourself and stop dwelling on everything you think you could have done better. The past is behind you, and it can only control you if you let it. So let go of what you should have done and focus on doing the best you can going forward."



Leave a Reply