Giving myself grace when doubt creeps in

How I move forward after making mistakes as a hemophilia parent

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by Joe MacDonald |

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I’m a pastor, so I encounter the word “grace” almost every day. Words of encouragement pour out of my mouth as I talk with parishioners struggling to make their way in the world. I often say, “Give yourself some grace. Everyone falls short of the mark, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t try your best.” Many of the people I comfort are facing uncertain futures, wondering if life will ever return to some semblance of normalcy.

What I mean is to permit yourself to fail occasionally. It’s OK not to get something right or to misjudge an obstacle in our path. However, when all seems to fall apart entirely, we must permit ourselves to be human. Giving ourselves grace allows us to embrace being imperfect.

We may make myriad mistakes in life, such as those that come with raising children. For example, I tend to beat myself up when my poor choices regarding my son’s healthcare lead to him experiencing internal bleeding or pain related to hemophilia. However, I realize in those moments that the words I offer others also apply to me. As I provide others grace, so must I forgive my own failures.

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John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote that while we aren’t perfect, we as humans strive toward perfection. Perhaps grace is found in the realization that, while we sometimes make mistakes, we’re able to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. Forgiving myself, I continue my journey to be the person I need to be — to wade through the chaos of a bleeding disorder, for instance.

I must admit that I hold on to past failures, often barricading them in a locked vault, allowing them to resurface only to prove my unworthiness. Not too long ago, I visited my therapist to discuss an event where I made a poor choice. I’d been beating myself up for months about what I said and did. I couldn’t let go of the shame I felt about saying something I regretted to a few church members. I apologized, but the moment replayed in my head, emphasizing my disappointment in myself for not responding as a perfect person.

As I sat in my therapist’s room, she asked me a question that changed my perspective on my feelings: “Joe, did you make a venial or mortal sin?” To put it another way, she wanted to know if I’d committed a lesser sin that could be forgiven (venial) or a grave sin that would separate me from God’s grace (mortal).

I looked at her and responded, “Of course, it was a venial sin.”

She asked, “Then why do you live as if you committed a mortal sin?”

I realized that while I take great pleasure in reminding others that grace can be a healing agent when things go poorly, I often forget to follow my own advice. Forgiveness must start in me before I can offer it to others. Grace must occupy a space in my heart before I share it with those around me.

The nature of grace and forgiveness is similar to when an airplane experiences a drop in cabin pressure. The air masks fall, and before helping someone else, we must put ours on first. Likewise, only when we’ve attended to our spiritual needs can we turn our attention to others. That’s especially true for parents or caregivers of a loved one with chronic illness.

Over the next few days, I hope to do a fearless and moral inventory of the times in my life when grace seemed like a distant fever dream. I hope to remember that forgiveness of my failures is possible with my next breath. Hope can replace fear, and paths of reconciliation can lead to a restoration of the soul. May grace abound in all of us as we progress toward wholeness.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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