Our failure to know joy is a direct reflection of our inability to forgive.  Charlotte Jojo Beck

I came across this quote the other day and it caused me to really pause and think.  As human beings, we tend to look at joy as something that’s attained once we’ve completed a series of steps.  I see this a lot in my coaching practice.  I’ll have joy when I get this promotion.  I’ll be able to tap into joy when I no longer work for this horrible boss, or when I feel more confident in my skillset.  I’ll have joy once I understand what my purpose and my true path on earth really is and have a plan for making it happen.

It’s not wrong to seek change, to want to grow or to want to improve our circumstances.  The problem is in thinking that “fix” alone will solve the problem of not having enough joy in our lives.  Our mental construct often frames joy as something we must earn.  The truth is joy is accessible now – in our imperfect lives, our imperfect careers, our imperfect leadership, our imperfect team and family dynamics.  The issue is that we can’t often access it because we’re too busy blaming ourselves or others for the perceived problems in our lives.

Forgiveness is often an inside job

Beck’s quote speaks to the path we need to take to access what’s already available to us.  And more often than not, the person we need to forgive the most is ourselves.

  • Forgive ourselves for not making a better choice of career. 
  • Forgive ourselves for not keeping up with society’s definition of success.
  • Forgive ourselves for constantly comparing ourselves to others.
  • Forgive ourselves for being so influenced by what others thought, and desperate for their validation and approval that we sacrificed our authentic self. 
  • Forgive ourselves for not having all the answers to the question of “what do you want to do with your life?” 
  • Forgive ourselves for our perceived laziness, and all the things we should be doing but we’re not.
  • Forgive ourselves for the fact that we’ve put on a few extra pounds and don’t always like the look of the person who stares back at us in the mirror.

Forgiveness is about letting go of the protective armor

Or maybe anger and resentment is projected outwards at the people around us.  We find ourselves locked into judgment and blame of others for the things they have done to us.  The things we have been subjected to – unfair expectations, abuse, trauma, bad leadership, bullying, being taken advantage of.  The list could go on and on.  Perhaps it shows up as passive aggressiveness or full blown aggressiveness with others.  Or maybe avoidance.  Forgiveness begins with the intention to let go of the armor of blame and defensiveness and a willingness to touch the vulnerability that sits underneath the anger.  Perhaps it’s the shame of having been humiliated publicly.  Or of having been abandoned and feeling isolated and unwanted.  Or the regret and shame of not standing up for ourselves with a difficult person.  When we can face that vulnerability and meet it with compassion and love for ourselves, we find ourselves on a much more joyful path.    

For a long time, I carried a lot of anger and resentment about a previous work situation.  It was years ago, when I had just transitioned my career, and found myself in a situation where I had been set up to fail.  It wasn’t until I really leaned into the feeling that was sitting under the anger – humiliation, and allowed myself to feel it without trying to push it away, that I could let it go.  Trying to forgive without acknowledging the hurt little boy or girl inside is like trying to swim with a giant boulder tied around one’s neck.  It was only when I touched that void and offered myself the incredible gift of compassion that the wound really started to mend.  We may have to do this many times, it’s a practice and can take many years to heal certain wounds.  But the cost of not doing it is the price of our freedom.

Coaching Questions for Thought:

  • How am I creating separation from myself?  Is there any layer of judgement?  Am I not being forgiving to myself?
  • What are all the ways I’ve judged myself today?  As you play them back in your mind, whisper softly to yourself – “forgiven.”
  • How am I creating separation with others?  How am I creating blame?  If I let go of the blame, what would I need to feel?  What vulnerability would that expose in myself?  How could I offer compassion to myself?

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients develop clarity, confidence, and compassion for self.  She is particularly adept at working with high performing women who are hard on themselves.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

  1. Ian Hallett July 8, 2024 at 8:37 pm

    Another amazing piece and exactly what I needed today! Thank you so much!