The inmates at the state penitentiary where I work often get stuck in their self hate. They did commit an awful crime, maybe with severe consequences for others. They have made bad and worse choices for years. And they have alienated their families who supported them as long as they could. They are hated by many and have learned to hate themselves.

Most of us who are not incarcerated don’t want to think of ourselves critically. We shield ourselves with titles and achievements. We learn to develop an imposing façade. The inmates can’t do that.

We listen to our Controller in our head and it says, “You’re doing well in the world,” and we feel good about ourselves. The inmates listen to their Controller in their heads and it says, “You messed up big time and you don’t deserve a break.” The process is the same — we move away from our center and into the Controller in our heads to convince ourselves we’re okay. Or, in the case of the inmates, not okay.

The inmates forget they are more than what they did. Behavior is something for which we are responsible. But the core of our being is something else. The essence of who we are is God. It’s easy to forget that for all of us. That’s why we go back to that stillness at our deepest center each day and we stop and we pay attention.

And when we pay attention, we never hear from our Controller, not when we’re in our center. The Controller voice is our head. In our center, we are never judged and condemned and forgotten. God always says “yes” to us. We cannot alienate ourselves from God or hide from God or fool God.

We do face enormous challenges and we do have lessons to learn and we must reconsider our thinking. But our essence is God. In each second, if we stop and pay attention inside we encounter God. And that’s really all we have to do: be present and experience.

“Be still and know that I am God” is not as easy as it sounds. Knowing that each of us is God is a burden as well as a joy. Everything counts — every utterance, every thought, every decision, every action. God is everywhere we are. There are no time-outs.

So, of course, we can’t tolerate self hate. That blocks us from our experience of God at our core. Somehow we have to be present to God’s acceptance, to God’s “yes,” and balance our responsibilities in the world. No matter what we’ve done, we don’t forego our responsibility to be present the rest of our lives. We always have another second and another decision and another opportunity. And we don’t want to miss those by getting stuck in the past.

Forgiveness is saying today is as important as yesterday. However I lived yesterday, I can make another choice today. I can always go on. And wherever I am, God is.

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