Current events have demonstrated a tremendous desire, on the behalf of perhaps the majority of people in the world, for peace in their lives. They are no longer satisfied with the mentality of political conflict, which endangers economic progress and human rights and freedoms. But most importantly, I feel that many people are now aware that if we want peace in the world, first we need to make peace with our own lives. It is human nature that needs to change, and we are capable of making such a transformation.
Our experience in the world reflects our inner state. Yes, this is a kind of magic—but that is the reality, the world is miraculous. I have seen so much evidence of this when I (or a student or client) have made a genuine shift in our belief system that resolves an inner conflict, then very soon our real-world circumstances change accordingly. We mirror our internal state—our resistance/fear and acceptance/love—in our personal life experience. As a group we mirror our consciousness in world events. It is our personal responsibility to become aware of our contribution to the group consciousness, to help create a better world for ourselves and our loved ones—which ultimately means everyone.
So what wars do we wage inside? The purposes and goals that we hold dearly—some we may have brought into this life or felt most strongly as a child or young person—are often compromised in the face of problems that we discover in trying to achieve them, and we may forget (actually suppress) them and opt for safer solutions. Playing the safe game is a sad conflict with the game we really (still) want to play. We have become someone else, a substitute for our true self. Reinforcing this position are the attachments we have come to cling to, the fears we may have of losing control of our safe space, the resistance we feel against elements of change, and the judgments we make that prevent acceptance of what is.
To better our position, to be able to open up our space and express our true desires, we first need to come to terms with our situation. Our true nature is an expression of love and that is the quality that we need first to rediscover in our consciousness.
Before we can contribute, through our consciousness, toward peace in the world, we need to make peace with ourselves. Before we can love others unconditionally, we need to be able to genuinely love ourselves. Before we can forgive and cease making judgments of others, we need to learn how to forgive ourselves and warmly accept ourselves just as we are.
We all do things we are not proud of; we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. We all do things that affect others in ways that we would not be willing to experience ourselves. Sometimes we do something that we know at the time is wrong, but it seems like the best solution to our situation. Or maybe we are tempted to put our own interests first. Other times we may be carried away by emotions of anger or jealousy and do something out of spite we may later regret. Or we don’t do something, like helping a friend in need, that we know we really should do. Alternatively, we may have the best of intentions but things go wrong, we make a mistake or realize something we did was harmful, even though we didn’t mean it to be.
The natural tendency when we do something wrong is to try to justify our actions, to make ourselves right. Or we may say the action was not wrong, it was deserved, making the other person wrong. Both of these are avoiding the reality, by denying our own sense of right and wrong and our responsibility for our actions. We avoid our feelings of guilt by pretending it was nothing wrong that we did, indeed it was right. We avoid our feelings of shame (feeling bad about how others perceive us) by pretending that it is the other who should be ashamed.
We need to drop our defenses, drop the lies we may have told ourselves to hide the truth, face up to the reality of our actions and their consequences—and forgive ourselves.
There is a big bonus to being realistic and truthful: we can learn the valuable lesson that the experience offers us. Indeed, it’s only when we have learned that lesson that we can let go of the past error and live our life as truly ourselves in the present.
Life is a journey of learning and the most worthwhile learning is derived from our personal experiences. When things go right, because we have good information and appropriate beliefs, our learning is reinforced by this positive feedback. When things go wrong, because we have faulty information and inappropriate beliefs, we and those affected by our actions suffer. But here we have a chance to learn something new. Much of our new learning and personal growth does come about as a result of painful experiences … provided we are willing and open to learn those lessons.
Self-forgiveness recaptures the energy that you were giving away in guilt and resistance against the past. It frees you to be yourself again: a new, happier and wiser you. If we can forgive ourselves then we can more easily forgive others. If we do not feel able to forgive others then we clearly have not learned to love ourselves. And the irony is, when we do truly love ourselves, we and others will not even need forgiveness, because we are able to accept the past, present and future as it is, as our creation, without judgment. Discrimination—of good/bad, right/wrong, ugly/beautiful—is not part of the vocabulary of love.
Copyright © Peter Shepherd. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Shepherd is a psychologist and writer in the field of personal development and runs the popular website, www.trans4mind.com. Born in London in 1952, he spent most of his life in England before moving to France to be with his wife, Nicole. Trained both as a rational-emotive and transpersonal psychotherapist, Peter combines these techniques in his own system of transformational psychology, applied to personal growth rather than therapy. His book, TRANSFORMING THE MIND, was the foundation of his website, which over nearly fifteen years has expanded to become one of the top personal development resources on the Internet.