How to Forgive Myself with Brad Schmitt

How to Forgive Myself with Brad Schmitt

As single parents, we are very, very, very acquainted with our shortcomings. It may be a big indiscretion or a mistake we’ve made in our past, or the day to day awareness that we aren’t doing everything perfectly. In either case, most of us carry around a low-grade sense of shame. We all fall short, but it’s hard to face that fact head on. But a major part of moving towards health is embracing the good and the bad in our lives. In those areas we see ourselves as failing, it’s so important to have grace and show ourselves forgiveness. So . . . how do we do that? How do we face our own weakness and show ourselves grace—true grace—as we move forward into wholeness?

This month, we are talking all about forgiveness. Brad Schmitt joined us this week to talk about forgiving ourselves—especially when it comes to parenting.

Brad’s Story

Brad is a columnist for The Tennessean’s “Inside Nashville” column, writing powerful stories about the city’s movers and shakers. He’s also a single dad by choice, raising kids in the foster system. 

Brad’s father died when he was just 8 years old and his mother was physically and verbally abusive to him. He grew up feeling neglected, unwanted, and unsafe in his own home. He grew up hearing from his mother that he was a “fat, lazy, selfish, stupid, piece of crap.” Over the years, he’s had a hard time getting his mother’s voice out of his head, especially when life took a turn. 

During his tv reporting days, Brad was convicted twice in three years for drunk driving. After his second conviction, he was fired from the news station, and sent to jail (and rehab) before getting into recovery for substance abuse in 2010.  

Accepting and Giving Yourself Grace in Failure

For Brad, the process of accepting and giving himself grace was first steeped in shame and humiliation. Of course, those two feelings loomed much bigger in his head than they were in reality. All four tv stations had stories about him getting his second DUI and consequently getting fired from his job. In Brad’s mind, this was humongous. But the truth was, all four stories were reported in 30 seconds. There weren’t follow ups. His story wasn’t leading the newscast. But in his head, that’s very much what it was. He couldn’t help bring more shame to the story than what there needed to be . . . to the point of suicidal thoughts. The first week following those stories, he remembers thinking the world would be better off without him in it, saving his family from experiencing the shame that he caused. 

We can be so self-absorbed that when we have a failing, we believe the lie that we’re embarrassing every single person in our lives. We make our failure much bigger than it really is. 

Self-Forgiveness in the Day-to-Day

When Brad’s mom spewed harsh words and mean comments his way, he remembers thinking, “I will never, ever do that to my kid.” But now, those messages come to Brad’s head when he’s dealing with stressful situations in his parenting. Therapy, treatment, and recovery have all helped Brad get his mom’s voice out of his head. And while he’s stopped 92% of her voice in those situations, there’s still that other 8%. 

Brad is currently fostering a 17-year-old named Dane. He shared a fight they had that all started with an iPhone cord. (Dane had taken his iPhone cord again . . . like every other teenager in the world.) On their way to Walmart to purchase another, he said something so hurtful to Dane, knowing it would hit him in his most vulnerable place. And it did. Realizing what he had done (and instantly regretting what he had said), he apologized to Dane in the electronics section of Walmart. Dane responded with a hug and let Brad know that he forgave him. But over the next several days, Brad wanted to keep reminding Dane that he was wrong and he was sorry. He wanted to make his home a safe place for him again. 

While that story isn’t one that happens every day, it’s one we can all empathize with—especially as parents. As Brad continued to own his mistake and remind Dane how much he wants him in his home, he had to face the fact that he still had work to do. 

Like Brad, most of us have pages in our story that we don’t want to read out loud but there’s a healing component in sharing our experiences with others. It lets the light in and helps alleviate shame. 

None of us have arrived and we’ve all made mistakes.

Owning Your Failures and Making Amends

Making amends with your kids is so important. But it’s also important to make amends with yourself. 

One of the biggest things Brad learned through his recovery process is that you can’t let your failure linger. If it lingers, it festers. That’s when it becomes even more dangerous and corrosive. He broke it down into two steps for us: 

  1. Be speedy about owning your mistake and asking for forgiveness.
  2. Talk to God every single day as you work through it. 

The more you do it, the better you will get. If you’re quick to amend and quick to jump in there, it takes some of the wind out of the sails of the continual shaming. The more you do it, the faster you do it, the better you will be at it. And of course, you need to know that we all blow it.  

In Brad’s example, both he and his foster son brought their own story of dysfunction to the table. But the over arcing thread is that God loves both of them and orchestrated the union between them. God actually cares about the situation. And He’s the one who is able to restore and redeem beyond even our actions. 

Self-Forgiveness in Parenting

Self-forgiveness is a process and a consistent practice. No one has “arrived.” We are humans that keep failing (and we are so aware of our shortcomings). We must learn how to own our failures in the moment. Remember: We all have our stuff. 

Being a single parent has taught Brad how to engage. There’s not another parent to take part of the hardship and failure. And there’s no running and hiding. But in a way, that’s better. 

Sometimes as single parents we find ourselves parenting out of fear instead of love, overcorrecting and micromanaging everything. When you do that, you damage relationships. But that’s not the end of the story. God restores the relationships. And as we change our patterns, it softens the relationships around us. God loves our kids more than we love them. He’s pursuing redemption and restoration in their hearts just like He does in ours. 

Relax . . . And Don’t Overthink It

The takeaway? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Brad reminds us that 97% of it is small stuff. Pick your battles . . . and that includes those battles with yourself. Remember to have grace for yourself. 

Brad leaves us with this: Stay in the joy and stay in the love. Relax . . . and don’t overthink it. 

Key Verse:  His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.  – Lamentations 3:23 (NIV)

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