Forgiveness, as all good Christians know, is at the heart of our life in Christ. Whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask that God would forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We know that forgiving others is what God expects of us. And we all remember that Jesus taught us not just to forgive seven times but seventy-seven times. We know how important it is. There are times when it is easy to forgive another, times when it is difficult. Times when we need to ask for forgiveness, and times when we need to offer it. But none of that is what this poem is about. It is really about forgiving ourselves. How often we forget (or refuse?) to forgive ourselves! Most of us, myself included, are much harder on ourselves than we are almost anyone else, probably everyone else. We let ourselves down over and over again. We get frustrated, angry, sad, but we rarely stop to consider how important it is to forgive ourselves, and how much God wants us to offer that gift to our very own selves. It is, as the title of this poem suggests, the first step.

I first encountered this poem in a wonderful book (and podcast) by Pádraig Ó Tuama, “Poetry Unbound.” (You can hear him read this poem here.) There are fifty poems in his book, this one near the beginning. And I thought it worth sharing here, because of its simple, but powerful, message. May this poem inspire each and every one of us to offer these life-giving words to our very own precious God-loved selves: I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.

Phase One | Dilruba Ahmed

For leaving the fridge open
last night, I forgive you.
For conjuring white curtains
instead of living your life.

For the seedlings that wilt, now,
in tiny pots, I forgive you.
For saying no first
but yes as an afterthought.

I forgive you for hideous visions
after childbirth, brought on by loss
of sleep. And when the baby woke
repeatedly, for your silent rebuke

in the dark, “What’s your beef?”
I forgive your letting vines
overtake the garden. For fearing
your own propensity to love.

For losing, again, your bag
en route from San Francisco;
for the equally heedless drive back
on the caffeine-fueled return.

I forgive you for leaving
windows open in rain
and soaking library books
again. For putting forth

only revisions of yourself,
with punctuation worked over,
instead of the disordered truth,
I forgive you. For singing mostly

when the shower drowns
your voice. For so admiring
the drummer you failed to hear
the drum. In forgotten tin cans,

may forgiveness gather. Pooling
in gutters. Gushing from pipes.
A great steady rain of olives
from branches, relieved

of cruelty and petty meanness.
With it, a flurry of wings, thirteen
gray pigeons. Ointment reserved
for healers and prophets. I forgive you.

I forgive you. For feeling awkward
and nervous without reason.
For bearing Keats’s empty vessel
with such calm you worried

you had, perhaps, no moral
center at all. For treating your mother
with contempt when she deserved
compassion. I forgive you. I forgive

you. I forgive you. For growing
a capacity for love that is great
but matched only, perhaps,
by your loneliness. For being unable

to forgive yourself first so you
could then forgive others and
at last find a way to become
the love that you want in this world.

3 thoughts on “Phase One | Dilruba Ahmed

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