Inner peace, the feeling of deep tranquility, is often sought after, yet seldom achieved. At the core of inner peace is acceptance: Accepting ourselves, and the life our Creator has given us. We achieve acceptance by making peace with ourselves over past mistakes and by making peace with our Creator over life’s challenges. After we have made peace with the way life has unfolded on the outside, we can find peace on the inside.
Making peace with ourselves
Forgiving and accepting ourselves is challenging. Yet, when we berate and harshly criticize ourselves, we do more harm than good. If a person views himself as worthless and bad, that is how he will act. We need to have a positive image of ourselves, one we will be motivated to live up to.
Do damage control: Before attempting to make peace with yourself for a mistake – whether as minor as burning dinner or as major as getting scammed – first take responsibility for the error and repair the damage as best you can. Depending on the situation, see if you have to first ask for forgiveness from others and/or from God (if you are unsure, speak to a rabbi).
Reflect: Consider what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently in the future; write these down to refer back to. Then see if you can let go of the blame or guilt you feel about the event.
What if you cannot let go?
Acknowledge God is guiding your life: Unless you willfully did what you knew was wrong or negligent, your mistakes come from God for your highest good; nothing, not even our errors, happens without His permission. What you thought was a mistake was just one step along a path leading to where you need to go.
Embrace your imperfections: Who gave you your flaws? Who made you prone to error? God. Accept the way He created you – which is the optimal setup to fulfill your life’s purpose. In addition, acknowledge that no one is perfect; we all have challenges and make mistakes. Ask yourself, “At the time of the incident, was I doing the best I could in a difficult situation? Am I certain that if others where in my exact position – with the all challenges and issues going on – they would have done any better?”
Treat yourself as you would others: Frequently, we are harder on ourselves than on others. We may overlook a wrong someone else did, but consider our own mistakes unforgivable. Don’t we deserve the same compassion and acceptance? After repenting, God forgives us, shouldn’t we forgive ourselves?
Forgive: When you are ready, look in the mirror, think about the mistake you made and say out loud, “I forgive myself.”
If you have trouble forgiving yourself, perhaps you need to first focus on forgiving others. When you become a more forgiving person, you will have an easier time forgiving yourself. Also, focus on enhancing your self-image to help you realize that you are worthy of forgiveness (see, “How to Stop Hating and Start Loving Yourself).”
Making peace with God
When life does not go as expected – especially when we experience physical, financial or emotional pain – we may feel that we have been treated unfairly by our Creator. We may even be bitter, resentful and angry. How do we handle such strong emotions? How can we become more accepting of the life our Creator has given us?
Express your pain: Nothing is wrong with respectfully questioning God. Throughout Psalms, God is asked why He is sometimes silent and appears to have abandoned us (Psalm 13 among others). We need to express our hurt to Him. We need to ask Him to reveal His sometimes hidden love. At the same time, we need to realize that God never promised a pain-free life – that is not the purpose of this world; this world is about overcoming and growing from challenges. Each challenge comes from God out of His love for us and is for our eternal benefit. We just do not understand the mystery of His ways. He is, after all, infinitely wise and we are not.
Expand your perspective: We can learn to be appreciative of the blessings God gives us and has given us throughout our lives. When we do, we will view the times we did not see His guiding hand in context with all the times He was clearly present, providing and protecting us. The periods of our lives marked by dark clouds do not reflect a change in His involvement, just a change in our ability to perceive His providence.
Accept unconditionally: The aspects of our lives we like – the gifts – and those we do not like – the challenges – both come from our Creator; they coalesce and form a unified whole. As Job said (Job 2:10), “…Will we accept the good from God and not accept the bad?”
Challenges, open us up and enable us to discover our inner gifts; the more intense our struggles, the more intense the gifts waiting to be uncovered.
Weave your unique tapestry: In truth, everything is a gift, some sugar-coated, others very bitter. God gives us the strands we need to fulfill our life’s purpose; we have to weave them together, the sweet and the bitter, into an exquisite tapestry that only we can make. If one strand was prematurely removed or absent, our life’s work would be deficient. At the end of our lives, we will present our handiwork to our Father in Heaven, with the hope that we have made our Father proud.
Reveal your inner sweetness: Sometimes, we call out to God in pain and ask, “Why? Why this suffering?” In the next world we will understand. For now, consider the following metaphor: Only when an orange is squeezed does incredible sweetness pour out. Within each one of us, emanating from deep within our souls, is incredible sweetness. When life is difficult – when you are squeezed and “hugged” by God – let your soul’s sweetness burst forth, returning His embrace, with an outpouring of heartfelt faith, sincere repentance, fervent prayer, and selfless acts of kindness. When God hugs you, hug Him back. When you hug God, out pours from the Heavens healing and blessing; not always when we want or in the way we want, but always when and what we need.
Pray: When you are ready, say to your Creator, “I know my suffering and difficulties come from You; they are out of Your endless love for me and for my ultimate good. I know You are all-powerful and infinitely wise and that I cannot understand Your ways. Help me accept, grow from and transcend my challenges.”
Discovering inner peace
You have an oasis of peace inside you. The door through which you enter this oasis is unconditional acceptance. To help you find this door, think about, throughout the day, that God is with you. He is guiding your life, protecting and strengthening you, and giving you exactly what you need for each moment.
With faith, comes the awareness that nothing bad will happen to you, ever. Painful events? Definitely, but always for your highest good. You realize that come what may, “God is with me, I have no fear…(Psalms 118:6)”
While making reasonable efforts to improve your life, give over your problems to God and rely on Him to take care of you. Let go of worry, let go of fear, and relax into your Father’s support.
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