Forgiving Ourselves by Erica K. Thompson

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.
~ Marianne Williamson

Without forgiveness, there’s no future.
~ Desmond Tutu

Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.
~ Hannah Arendt

I often leave the annual ACPA convention with unexpected themes in my learning and reflection. This year’s theme, as you may have guessed, is forgiveness. Constructed through powerful conversations with a mentor, engaged dialogue with our commission’s directorate, unabashed vulnerability during CSJE’s open business meeting, and wholehearted moments with dear friends, forgiveness – particularly forgiving myself – resonated and became a pattern throughout my trip. Plus, I went to sessions!

My journey to the conference of forgiveness began on my flight to Las Vegas, where I caught up on a book from a book club (led by some of our fellow ACPA commissions) that I had intended to read ages ago and let life get in the way – Brene Brown‘s The Gifts of Imperfection. I really enjoyed following the #SAimperfection hashtag on Twitter as the book club progressed and having watched both of Brene Brown’s TED talks (here and here), I knew I would enjoy the book. I underlined (yes, I’m an underliner, even when the book isn’t for class) practically every single paragraph. I saw myself in her words, in her stories, and in her struggles. And yet, I also knew I wasn’t fully embracing my vulnerability, authenticity, and wholeheartedness.

The following day, a wonderful talk with a new mentor reminded me that wholeheartedness was the key to truly being myself. I went to him seeking ways to get better at my job, be better at social justice education, and for him to kick me in the behind so that I could get my act together (in order to be better). What I am so grateful for is that he reminded me that, as Brene notes in her books, the key to being “better” is not working harder – that I instead needed to get this ideal of what it means to be a social justice educator out of my head and just decide to do it.

You just have to decide.

Needless to say, deciding felt deceptively simple.

Meeting with this amazing group of folks pushed me further into considering how to get out of my own way and move towards a completely authentic self –

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CSJE Directorate 2013 – 2014 at Convention in Las Vegas

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CSJE Directorate 2013 – 2014 at Convention in Las Vegas

Two of our fantastic directorate board members led us through several activities. We ended with a meaningful reflection, asking:

What do you need to forgive, within yourself and/or of others, to allow you to fully embrace yourself as a social justice educator?

Whoa. Did someone plant that question? Immediately, my conversation from the day prior resonated. I connected (intellectually) that in order to embrace myself as a social justice educator, I needed to forgive myself for not being that ideal I held of the perfect social justice educator – the person who I felt I needed to be/come. Actually writing that concept down during our reflection period proved a little more difficult. I not only resisted forgiving myself, I resisted even documenting the idea of forgiving myself.

Our “open business meeting,” which was more of an un-meeting – structured World Cafe style, brought up lively conversations about how we as a directorate could engage the larger commission and some great moments of folks sharing what was “up” for them at convention, particularly as we sat in the heart of Las Vegas. In a place where social justice issues like sexism, binary gender expectations, immigration, human trafficking, socioeconomic status, objectification, and addiction are very apparent, Las Vegas offered a seemingly endless supply of triggers. And yet, here we all were, gathered to talk about social justice at a conference held by our association, focused on the theme of Building Communities of Well-being. I heard some very strong examples of intense moments of injustice experienced by our commission members along with struggles bearing the knowledge that we were visiting and adding revenue to a place where so many injustices are happening.

How do we forgive ourselves for contributing in our attendance? How will we forgive our association for bringing us together here? Must those things happen for us to fully embrace our path within ACPA?

Throughout convention, I am so grateful to share this all with a dear best friend – my wholehearted partner in authenticity. She asks brilliant questions, points out things I can’t see because I am too deep within them, and supports my messy journey to forgiveness.

I truly believe forgiveness to be at the core of moving forward on my journey, and that I need to forgive myself for my mistakes and inaction so that I can fully embrace myself as a social justice educator (and as a whole person). I want to re-share the quotes I began with:

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.
~ Marianne Williamson

Without forgiveness, there’s no future.
~ Desmond Tutu

Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.
~ Hannah Arendt

What do you think?

  • Did you attend convention? If so, what was “up” for you in Las Vegas? How did you work through that while in Las Vegas and since returning home?
  • What do you need to forgive within yourself and of others to allow you to fully embrace yourself as a social justice educator?
  • How do you seek support and authenticity from others in your journey of forgiveness?

Erica K. Thompson is a proud @uiowa alum, currently serving as the Assistant Director for Staff and Community Development in Housing & Residential Life at South Dakota State University. She’s a wife, Great Dane puppy mom, photographer, runner, INFJ idealist, & fits her StrengthsQuest themes of empathy, input, strategic, developer, & individualization. Connect with Erica on Facebook, @EricaKThompson, blogging, MODding #sachat, contributing to #SAchat #WLSALT and #SAfit, or through email at ekgeers@gmail.com. Erica is grateful to serve in her second term on the CSJE Directorate Body and excited to begin her first year as the Vice Chair for Social Media.

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5 thoughts on “Forgiving Ourselves by Erica K. Thompson

  1. This is wonderful. Doing our own healing is such a key to effective social justice work (as well as other work and living our lives). We believe that forgiveness is done for others but true forgiveness is a selfish act. The act of forgiving frees me much more than it does the person I am forgiving. When the person you need to forgive is yourself – the task is often much harder and much more liberating.

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