Forgiveness – self-forgiveness and I can’t beat myself up

From Arno Michaelis

Video Interview Transcript

And she'd just ask me again, "You should really think about how does forgiveness relate to your story?" And right away I thought of these people who were really brave and who showed me kindness in spite of my hostility. And it dawned on me very clearly that in order to do that they had to forgive me on the spot. I was openly hostile. I had a shaved head. I had swastikas all over me, horrible tattoos. I was just like this person who radiated hate and violence. And for them to be able to treat me with kindness they had to go through a forgiveness process right there. And so without that the course of my life may not have been changed. And so in that aspect forgiveness is absolutely central to my story. And exploring it further and really I think the deeper aspect of forgiveness for me is the sense of self forgiveness where I've done horrible things to innocent people. And I committed a lot of violence with my bare hands and I incited other pissed off white kids to commit violence as well. The music that I made back then is literally me screaming at people to kill each other because of the color of their skin. And that music is still out there no matter what I'm doing. So I have, I feel a huge responsibility to not only atone for my past but ideally to make a positive impact to counteract the harm that I've done. And in order to do that, I need to forgive myself. If I'm beating myself up mentally, spiritually, emotionally, it diminishes my ability to truly help people. And if I'm at a school and I'm talking to kids about self forgiveness and I'm talking about compassion but I'm not really walking that walk, it's going to be really obvious and the message isn't going to get through. So I remind myself even though there is this part of me and I think going back this is the part of me as a child who was hurt by my parents fighting and hurt by the suffering caused by that that I think was the reason why I got involved in hate groups is because I hated myself. And I was afraid to show my vulnerability and to say like hey this hurts me I need help. If I'm still letting that part of me dictate how I interact with the world as far as like beating myself up goes then I can't really help other young people avoid falling in that same trap. So I look at it as like a tactical thing in that if I want to be the best Arno I can be I can't be beating myself up.

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