“The truth does not change and that’s why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.” –John Lewis
John Lewis said that in his last days he was filled with hope because people are using their power to demand respect for human dignity…“Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
I say, if you want to make a difference, the first person you need to demand respect for and free, is yourself.
- What parts of yourself are you keeping locked up?
- What do you keep hidden from the world?
- What thoughts do you hide from?
- What are you ashamed of?
Try this exercise:
- Think of something you have done that you regret. (Think of it before you move to the next step.)
- Feel the surge of negativity and anxiety that washes over your body when you think of this regretful thing. You want to take it back. You are ashamed of that part of yourself, and likely you have tucked that incident away in the back of your mind, in your mind’s prison.
- Picture the part of yourself who did the shameful thing locked away in the back of your mind.
- Take a deep breath and when you exhale, imagine you are releasing that part of yourself from that guarded space in your mind.
- See that regretful part of yourself smile—so good to be free. Return your smile and recognize that this is a part of you. Congratulate yourself on having the strength to release it from its bonds.
- Talk to the freed part of yourself. Ask it questions. Why did you do that terrible thing? What were you thinking? As you begin to understand, you might find yourself softening towards this part of you. It’s likely there were reasons that made sense at the time. Can you understand? Can you empathize? Can you forgive?
- Say to this part of yourself, “I forgive you. I set you free.”
- Take a deep breath and feel your mind and body expand. Think of all of the new energy available to you that was being used to enforce your mental jail. The cell is gone. The prisoner is free to be part of you again, to learn from the rest of you.
Often when we lock something up, we are afraid of its power. Now that this part of you is free, you can incorporate its power.
Forgiveness takes strength. Forgiveness heals the person who forgives. Forgive yourself. You are worthy. You are enough.
From an early age I remember disagreeing with the policy of the death penalty. I have always been drawn to stories about incarceration and issues surrounding the justice system. However, I have no experience with jail, personally, nor with friends or family, so I have often wondered why I feel so passionate about the subject.
I always say, “it’s not the external situation, it’s YOU,” and recently I realized that my energy around incarceration is because that’s exactly what I have always done with myself. I compartmentalize and create a hierarchy within myself—this part is worthy of freedom…this part needs to stay over here…this part needs to never come out. The exercise above helps me look at parts of myself that scare me, and find the strength to free them.
From personal experience, I can say with absolute conviction, the more compassion you show yourself, the more compassion you show others. The more you accept yourself for who you are, shadows and all, the more you will accept others. When you bring your shadow into the light, it becomes a powerful ally!