Forgiving yourself and forgiving others are intrinsically linked, in that by reaching forgiveness in either scenario, you are granting yourself peace and harmony over the situation. A few years ago I faced another situation that required me to truly forgive the perpetrators in order to re-find the love.
When I lived in London and before Whitney moved in, In order to pay the mortgage on my house I needed to rent out two of the rooms. At this time, one of my lodgers had recently left so I decided to try letting the room through Airbnb. I had my first guests, a lovely French couple, who came and went as they pleased during the booking period. We took it in turns to cook for one another every so often, sharing the different foods and wines that we loved, forming a good relationship during their stay.
After the French couple left, I had a booking almost immediately from an Australian couple, Lets call them Clarissa and Paulo, who were house-hunting nearby. On their arrival, I greeted them with open arms, helped take their extensive luggage to the room, told them that they should treat my house like their home and that I would happily cook for them that night. They said they were busy the first evening, so politely refused the offer. Nothing wrong with that. They were only staying a week, so I didn’t really get a chance to see much of them. I hosted a dinner party on one of the evenings, to which I again invited them but they were eating out, so they again refused the offer. As it happened, they arrived back early and subsequently joined in the frivolities of the party. All in all, it seemed to have been a pleasant week.
Clarissa and Paulo had originally told me they would be leaving at a particular time, so I rearranged my plans around this in order to show them out. Ten minutes before their scheduled departure, I was messaged by Clarissa to say that they wouldn’t be back on time, which meant that I couldn’t be there to see them off. I told them to post the key through the door and wished them luck with their house-hunting.
Now, as you may or may not know, Airbnb is an incredibly well-marketed online resource that helps people to privately rent a room for considerably cheaper rates than those of a hotel, or for the owners of a property to rent out however much of it they see fit, for extra income. Generating a successful account with Airbnb depends largely on the feedback delivered by both parties at the end of the stay.
The day after Clarissa and Paulo left, Airbnb asked me to review the stay. Looking back on it, the couple weren’t particularly sociable but each to their own; I wasn’t going to mark them down on that. They were both, dare I say it, obese, which I obviously didn’t mind but it did explain the entire consumption of an extra large, brand new tub of chocolate spread that the French couple had kindly given me. It wasn’t their appetite with which I had a problem, it was the fact that they never once asked if they could have any, let alone devour it. So I did have a minor issue with that but not enough to impinge on their other good reviews, so I wrote a warm evaluation of their stay.
Later that evening I received their review of me. They had posted a thoroughly negative account of their stay, stating that the place was a mess (even though they had no worries about dropping chocolate spread around the kitchen – and the French couple had given top marks for cleanliness). They said that my invitations to eat and drink with me and my friends were highly inappropriate and made them feel uncomfortable. This was after I had shown nothing but kindness and attention to their every need, after they had actually joined in with the party and after I had reviewed them positively.
I was enraged that people I had gone out of my way to please could intentionally ruin my chances of ever renting the room through Airbnb again. As only my second visitors, they now accounted for 50% of my feedback. I had made it my mission to create a perfect stay for them and they had kicked a pile of shit in my face. I was irritated and infuriated and felt helpless.
Once again, it suddenly dawned on me that I could do nothing to change what they had done but I could do everything to change the way I felt about it. I realized that I needed to rearrange my thinking in order to forgive them. But how?
After clearing my mind by meditating for a while, I re-instigated the compassion I had shown from the start. Instead of remonstrating, I sent them a text message apologising to them for the apparently poor state of the house and my obscure social attitude and invited them over for a drinks party, to show that there were no bad feelings. The moment I sent it, I suddenly felt a heavy weight lift from my mind, replaced with a massive smile. I felt amazing. I knew I had responded with generosity of heart, in the face of what seemed like calculated injustice.
Sadly, I never did hear back from them but I learned an incredible lesson from the whole episode and don’t regret one thing about it.
It occurred to me after the event that perhaps Clarissa and Paulo were not as straightforward as I had initially thought. More often than not (as was explained properly in the 'Overcoming Addiction: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Recovery' blog), people become overweight through addiction to food. If this was the case for my guests, their ongoing quest for the elusive dopamine hit, fuelled by repetitively gorging on food, would have left them angry and uncompromising. This is perhaps a reason why they would have felt uneasy with unfamiliar social situations and overly irritable to maybe a dirty window, or whatever it was that had caused them to complain about the state of the house. The fact that the both of them appeared to be suffering from the same addiction maybe meant that they would have both felt the same unnecessary rage, without having an independent loving nudge away from their anger. In turn, this is perhaps why I got the brunt of it. Instead of bitterly chastising them, I now think about them with compassion and hope they will someday rid themselves of the afflictions holding them back.
I recently used this principle to help settle the mind of a great friend of mine, Amber. She had just found out that four of her close friends had failed to invite her to an annual gathering that they had all attended for the previous five years or so. Amber was beside herself with the idea that they no longer liked her and she felt a burden on them and everyone else. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became of her presumptions. After confirming she hadn’t recently done anything out of character to upset any of them, I worked on putting her woes to rest.
I suggested that she needed to detach herself from the negative assumptions and to instead mindfully assess the situation. For example, they were all married and some of them had recently had their first children; Amber hasn’t yet entered into either of those situations. A couple of the other girls worked together, which would have straightaway made communicating about the event far easier.
If Amber could treat every single day as a different adventure, in which anything can happen, countless new benefits would manifest themselves in front of her, which would then give rise to not only making new friends but old friends wanting to spend more time with her, too. The instigation of this new thought-processing mindset is a sure fire way to cultivate even more love for yourself, which in turn will bring about love from others.
Love to Love You Baby ♫
Although it is important to spend time alone in order to love yourself, it is also paramount to invest time in your most fulfilling relationships. When I talk about generating and receiving love from others, I’m not talking about romantic love, I’m talking about unconditional love for your close friends and family. Yes, being infatuated with a sexual partner is incredible but the energy and strength you receive from platonic love – which can be for that person who is your sexual partner too – is quite remarkable. Whether these are with a sibling, a parent, a friend or a lover, cultivating the ability to love others as much as yourself, will have the bonus effect of making you feel good about yourself, which can only instil more self-love upon you. Once you have got the wheels of love in motion, starting with yourself, you’ll gradually circulate the love for you to other people, which then has the resounding effect of re-affirming and increasing your love again, and around it keeps on going.
This seems a perfect time to explain how this has affected me.
Back when I lived in London, I had just begun dating my now wife, Whitney. I had always been incredibly honest with her about how I felt and about how I compared every single one of my relationships with with this supposed goddess ex of mine. Yet, Whitney didn’t let that put her off, even though I know it would have sent many other girls running. This amazing girl consistently stuck by me until I saw the light!
Whitney assiduously stayed with me throughout everything. She was assured enough of herself to help me to reinvigorate my own love, knowing full well that there was no guarantee that in the end I would want anything more than just a friendly shoulder to bear my weight. Little did she know at the time that she'd hit the marriage jackpot!
The Mindful Baker's Tips to regaining self-love.
Remember ‘love brings self confidence, anger brings fear’. Recognise, appreciate and acknowledge your achievements
Never compare yourself to anyone else and if you have faith in it, stop seeking approval from others for your lifestyle
Reignite the affection you felt for yourself as a child. Care for your inner self as you would a child, with affection and love
When making a decision, ask yourself how someone who loves themselves would act
Move well, eat well and sleep well (banish electronic devices from the bedroom)
Dedicate time to spend with yourself – go for a walk, to the cinema, to a bar, on your own
Be honest with yourself about your mistakes; forgive others and forgive yourself: Recognise what’s gone wrong; Talk about it; Understand what you want; Identify the pain; Hit the stop button; Write about it.
Invest in your relationships with others
Promote love through writing letters to your loved ones
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