Forgiveness – a skill that can be learned!

Overcoming Perfectionism – no matter what

As a marriage and family therapist  for over thirty years, I have often noticed how many of us wrestle with the practice of forgiveness. There are many ways to cultivate forgiveness in our lives. The more unwilling or unable we are to let go, the more opportunities to forgive seem to endlessly present themselves.

The inability or unwillingness to forgive is based in part on grief that is either unacknowledged or somehow denied. Perhaps because we live in a culture that minimizes or undervalues feelings we often find ourselves “stuck” with no where to go with our feelings, feeling shame when the feelings awaken. Sometimes, we can be caught by surprise with either a public outburst or a display of emotion that reveals itself unexpectedly through tears.

The first part of forgiveness is to acknowledge a need to grieve. Life and relationships often don’t live up to our expectations or the ideals and fixed conditions with which we use to measure ourselves. An easy way to say this is perfectionism needs to go. Louis Hay, the AIDS activist and healer once said, “Why do I believe I have to be perfect in order to be barely acceptable.”

The Dalai Lama says “Compassion is an essential ingredient to happiness.” Bob Plath, the director of The Forgiveness Alliance, might say, “Forgiveness is an essential ingredient to happiness.” I dedicate this column to loving not just people outside yourself, but to truly loving and forgiving yourself.

Many of us have a tendency to abandon ourselves ten times a day. To redress this does not mean shouting out our feelings on the rooftops at any perceived slight. Studies show that people who tend not to perceive apparent slights have less “need to forgive.”

Letting go of perfectionism and being more loving, by accepting our feelings, is the only chance we have to begin to know ourselves, and start the process of forgiveness. This will allow others to really know us as well.

So when strangers and our loved ones inadvertently hurt us, we need to come back to ourselves and recognize our feelings to start the healing process. While studies show that people who tend not to notice or perceive apparent slights have less need to forgive, even if we haven’t built ” the muscle” to overlook other people’s flaws, we can start today to consciously own and forgive our own.


The Art of Forgiveness

The Art of Forgiveness

A Series of 3 In-Person Workshops


April- May 2024 | SF Bay Area