Forgiving the teenage self

I find myself deeply upset about an incident forty years ago. As Louise says, the feeling comes from how I am now. She also says I should let go of the past. I feel that I have to process it first. I judge myself harshly and reflexively, so the incident upsets me.

I have forgiven myself a far more serious incident. Aged about twenty I drove a gay couple from my church. I was authoritarian, seeking safety in rules, including that Unmanliness was wicked, and utterly self-righteous about this at the time. I have come to accept it. I did wrong because I knew no better and was under particular pressures. I have accepted my femininity, and that enables me to accept other people too. Christianity is about living well, which is not about obeying rules.

The two new ABBA songs reminded me of a comparatively trivial incident, when I was around fifteen. There was a boy a year younger at school. I cannae mind his name, call him Iain. Like me he was unpopular, comparatively friendless. Now, I might call him a “nerd” but did not know the word then. His parents drove him to Obaig for the day out, and allowed him to bring a “friend”- he invited me.

I don’t know why I went along. I was remorselessly ungracious. I think I thought I should patronise a younger boy rather than be friendly. We listened to ABBA in the car, because he liked it, and his mother asked me, “Do you like ABBA?” No, I said. Then they were thought of as naff. Since then they have gone from guilty pleasure to Premier Pop/Rock Group of the Seventies. Also, I knew pop music was meretricious, only classical music had value.

There were no more friendly invitations.

Now, I don’t know what’s hurting me. My unfriendliness, my loneliness, my inability to anticipate the musical taste of my middle-aged self? The child could do no better, any more than the young man could. Some confusion and resentment of the time, which I have carried unprocessed since? The inner gaslighter’s ability to persecute me for anything and second-guess all my actions however long ago?

There was a trauma which made me want to make a man of myself, find myself repulsive and inadequate, worthless but for what I could achieve, unable to attain the perfection I demanded from myself. Recognising that trauma and the concomitant idea that all the imperfections which shame me are blameless, or at least not my fault, felt like a huge step forward, and now I have this to deal with.

In worship, I started thinking aimlessly of things like where I put dried goods so I used those bought earliest first. Such things are my biggest concerns, now. Then I thought of going to Obaig with Iain and am gasping with the pain of it.

It’s not just forgiving the mistakes, it’s bearing the confusion and pain of the child. I remain in pain and confused. And I understand more, accept more, than the child could. And I am safe for now. I can look after myself given the pressures on me now.

Monday morning I still feel wrecked. Writing this was what I had to do. From Greenbelt I have the concept of “body-mapping”.

I have an outline drawn round my body on two long rolls of paper by a woman I have met before. In that exercise the lifechanging event was the pandemic, but mine might be this: making an inventory of myself and- I hate to write “my struggle” because it makes me think of Hitler, but the challenges I have faced.

My responsibilities are to care for myself and to use my gifts for the good of the World. No pressure there, then. All these questions are worthwhile.

Or maybe, my responsibility is to care for myself and heal myself, which requires all my love and courage, and leave the World to look after itself for now.

5 thoughts on “Forgiving the teenage self

  1. You list two responsibilities in the final two paragraphs. The former is, from my perspective, the most important. But until you have taken care of yourself, I think it is wise to leave the World to look after itself.

    Kia kaha


    • Yes.

      I have sought good action to prove I am worthy of existence.
      Then I am too tired for anything else, or even for that. Good is defined by others.
      The inner critic demands this action, and something in me resists and subverts.
      If I know I am worthy of existence action will arise from me, from my choices.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Would you judge a friend as you seem to judge yourself? I wonder if we’re our own worst critic. I say that as someone who cringes at old memories of certain behaviours.

    There’s a book by a neuroscientist about her experiences in raising two teenage boys. She looks at the brain and body through the teenager years. What surprised me was her comment on many people simply not having the neutral circuitry, if you will, for empathy. Perhaps at the time, your younger self did not and as such, could neither relate to the other person nor could not understand the impact of your words now years later.

    Maybe the best you can do is acknowledge that things could have been better, try to let go, and endeavour to behave differently next time ❤️


    • That’s all very sensible. Yes. And, I notice the emotional reaction I have to the incident, and what my inner critic tells me about it. I suppose I am blogging with that inner critic as my primary audience- no, I did the best I could under difficult circumstances then, and I would not respond like that now. And secondarily the audience is other people- how strong is their inner critic, how can they disarm it, how can we let go?


      • I think the strength, if you will, of each person’s inner critic varies. Maybe luck, upbringing, environment, etc. On listening to a friend who was a sports coach, they said (on working with some top athletes) some were so haunted by their personal demons, yet those factors also drove them on.

        In terms of letting go, easy to write, less easy to enact 🙂 Forgiveness and self kindness are good starts, so I’m told. I think Gok Wan said in an interview that his gran recommend writing a letter to yourself or the person and then burning it. The process of writing – perhaps like blogging – can help and I wonder if the letter feels personal.

        Liked by 1 person

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