Succubus on My Chest


I have forgiven and try to forget, but my mind betrays me with imagined scenarios of the iniquity that went on behind my back. And when my harrowing dreams wake me in the night, I wake to the thought of the betrayal—riding my chest like a succubus.

This is the dispiriting aspect of forgiveness—to forgive is a decision of the will, to forget is beyond our control. The pain of remembering revisits again and again, like an untreated abscess. 

Aristotle taught that the best kind of friendship is that in which we see ourself in our friend.

But sometimes things like the following happen, as depicted in the newly released movie, “45 Years.” The couple approaching this milestone wedding anniversary have this revelatory exchange:

Geoff Mercer: You really believe you haven't been enough for me?

Kate Mercer: No. I think I was enough for you. I'm just not sure you do.

This is why it hurts so much when we discover we didn’t know our friend at all. It leads us to suspect we don’t know ourself either.

Why am I writing about this? Because of a conversation last week with a friend who has suffered a betrayal:

“I had an epiphany. I’ve realized that I need to forgive myself.”

This comment deserves to be shared, because there are vast numbers of us who take the blame for things not our fault.

When someone close fails us, we feel deep—and justifiable—hurt and resentment. Next, we ask why. Why was I betrayed? It must have been something I did. Or didn’t do. Whichever, my own shortcoming caused the other person to wrong me. I drove them to it!

Is this a case of taking mature responsibility—which appears to be better than blaming our woes on everyone and everything else—or are we indulging in blame that's directed inward?

Our next thought? I must be a failure as a human being. And this translates to “I am unlovable.”

Dr. Craig Malkin asserts that we inevitably turn to self-doubt when we're afraid we can't control our experience.

Author Mike Robbins offers a cure:

Letting go of blame allows us to be free, to take back our power and to avoid the trap of thinking that someone or something else has the ability to dictate our experience of life. Whether our life is "wonderful" or "difficult" is always up to us.

Eleanor Roosevelt, whose personal life suffered a healthy portion of psychic insults, said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

The elixir of self-forgiveness, however, can be administered only if we step up to the fact that we are lovable, valuable and singular in all the universe.

"There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love," says author Bryant H. McGill.

“Never forget to be compassionate to yourself,” neurologist Debasish Mridha cautions. Because “to forgive others, you must forgive yourself first.”

This idea is thought to stretch back to Hippocrates, he of the Hippocratic Oath.

The ancient Romans made it a proverb: Medice, cura te ipsum.

Even Christ quoted it in dealing with the Pharisees.

“Physician, heal thyself.”

(The painting is Broken Vows by Philip Hermogenes Calderon, 1856, Tate Collection)

Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon:

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at:



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