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Cringing and the Path to Mercy

What is the cringiest, most awkward or embarrassing memory you have?

I think each person has moments like this. We all have events in our lives we wish we could change. Often, it’s just silly and relatively small moments that we cringe over. Sometimes these “recall” moments are real regrets.

I’ve always been a serious cringer. I’ve often gone back to embarrassing or awkward moments in my memories and physically cringed. Like, it has come to the point where my stomach clenches and I literally squeak (my Mom has started to recognize when I’m doing this and always asks me what I’m contemplating). Sometimes, when I am regretting something I said or did, I think, if only I could have known then what I know now, I could have prevented this. I should have known better. That was just so awkward of me, they must all think I’m just the strangest. It’s all my fault. That person will never recover from how I hurt them. That was unforgivable of me. As with most of us, these thoughts go on and on, and we get consumed by a cycle of memory, cringe, and loathing.

Near the end of my school semester this year, I had just finished a long day and what felt like an even longer evening of studying. I was getting ready for bed and listening to a song called “Forgive and Let Go” by Joe Zambon. While I was listening to the song, I started to think about who I could forgive in my life (a practice that I’m trying to do more regularly). It occurred to me that the person I needed most to forgive was myself. In that moment, I felt that Jesus was showing me that every time I re-live a moment and cringe, I am extending unforgiveness to myself. When I thought about forgiving myself, it felt terribly uncomfortable. I didn’t feel very merciful. Forgiving myself seemed a dry decision. I was still holding onto shame. I again felt Jesus gently saying that I didn’t have the grace to forgive myself, but he forgave me. This gave me permission to forgive myself. This experience brought tears to my eyes, as I realized how much unforgiveness I had built up against myself, and how freeing it would be to forgive and let go.

When we choose to be merciful to someone, we aren’t saying that what they did was okay, but we are choosing to pardon it, willing to understand the struggle and brokenness that led them to that decision. If we can choose to forgive others even when we don’t feel like it, we must try to do the same for ourselves, for we are equally deserving (or underserving) of mercy as anyone else.

Since that night, I have made conscious decisions to forgive myself. When I catch myself cringing, I stop, and extend mercy towards myself in that memory. This has been so very freeing.

I encourage you to invite Jesus into all those areas where you are still living in shame, and to extend mercy towards yourself. For He, the source of all mercy, calls you out of cringing and into his everlasting light!

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