Forgiveness: Always An Inside Job [Part II of Actual Coaching Dialogue on ‘Clutter and Forgiveness’]

Hi Shawn,

No, I was up LATE!!  That’s just another bad pattern I’ve gotten myself into — having too much left to do at the end of the day (okay, I see myself buying into another belief that something is “bad” there…)

Thank you so much for all the LOVE and WISDOM…. It helps to reframe things as you said, where I can look at the clothes and feel the joy of having the kids at those ages, and feel the hopefulness of the potential ahead of them.

And thanks also for the slap upside the head about what I’m believing — you’re 100% right!!  All of these thoughts have not gotten me anywhere useful, so it’s time to stop believing those old stories.

Thank you for the reframe on the fertility thing, because that’s something I beat myself up with all the time — that I shouldn’t have played God by going through treatments to have kids, but I’ve just realized that I’m playing God now by saying that he made a mistake in giving them to us, and that I know better than he does.


I think your story about adopting is that you gave a lucky little girl a very good home and tons of love, and a mom who will listen to her and understand her and teach her the important stuff in life — like how to get through it.  She is truly a lucky child!  Is it wrong to tell ourselves good stories about things like this?




Dear B.,

I think you have the same story to tell about your own kids. It is SO not wrong to bask in the glory of how we show up–no matter what it looks like–that IS the manifestation of God’s will and anything that says otherwise just separates us from it.

The first place to start in making amends for the ways you feel guilt or remorse–the ways you showed up that you feel did have negative consequences for others is to forgive yourself.  Which starts with forgiving yourself and your thinking—the thing that is always behind your regrettable actions.

That thinking represents the littlest, sweetest part of you that somewhere along the way got hold of a ‘this is the way it is’ and ‘this is what I need to do to be safe/happy’ thought.  That thought has been driving the bus ever since.  It’s nothing other than what it is–no judgments or better than or worse than–it’s just what showed up that you believe to be YOU and you believe to be ALL WRONG.

When you really can see that and see that you don’t know what could have been better for you or your kids or the planet, you can still be curious about ways you have affected them and yourself that feel painful. Again, the place to start is by making amends to yourself.

Katie always says, “Forgiveness is finding out that what you thought happened, didn’t.” I see that as really questioning and seeing through your interpretation that makes yours or another’s actions WRONG.

And then she and I both expand that to say that in any case, the only real one to forgive and making amends to YOURSELF.

In other words, because even when you are caught in blaming another and not thinking it’s your fault, you are actually the one that got hurt. The pain of that victim mindset—totally an inside job–is what happened to YOU.

It is very painful to separate from others and from who we are–all parties just doing the best we can given what we are believing.

An Inside Job

So when you are able to go back in and ask yourself for forgiveness for doing that to you and to them–truly learning from your own inquiry that you did the best you could, but also caring how much hurt happened at your own hands TO YOU–then you can start to make a living amends to yourself by cleaning up the inner dialogue that continues to terrorize you.

To me, this is the entire basis of Christianity and really almost all forms of spirituality, but it has been very twisted and misinterpreted in many religious contexts.  Once you SEEK forgiveness for yourself and turn yourself over to the ‘something beyond your mind’s saying it was wrong’ (i.e., who would you be without, before, under, or above that thought), you realize that the moment of separation (sin) all happened inside you.

So that is where it is cleaned up.  Between you and YOU (the ‘you-all-that-is’– that is not limited to your thinking and has no way to NOT love you–call it God/Life/LOVE/Christ Consciousness/Many other names).  That is why this work so greatly enhances whatever religious or psychological or spiritual work you are already doing; since it was all an inside job and we go back IN to clean up where we separated from our true nature. The way out is always IN. The clutter is just a symptom of lack of forgiveness of yourself or others that somehow got linked in your mind to amassing possessions as a way to stay safe.

And that helps everyone else.  That inner unforgiving dialogue is not only hurtful to you, but since it represents a mindset that there is a way to ‘do it wrong,’ it ends up also getting projected onto those closest to you.

You can’t see the world any other way–it’s divided up into

  • good/bad,
  • right/wrong,
  • fat/thin,
  • smart/dumb,
  • living their potential/not living their potential,
  • those who hurt me/those who support me, etc.

So the best you can do for them is this systematic and efficient questioning the mind-made origination of those premises.  Via The Work, you can even love them and welcome them to exist as thoughts for as long as they do–continuing to fall back in love with yourself exactly as you have shown up (and continue to show up) every step of the way.

That’s why the work I’ve done and been teaching on regret is SO transformative and affects so many others besides yourself.  That’s why I consider this to be a movement—till we all live from this new paradigm of freedom from self or other blame.  With it, you can always–100%–go back and find the spark of love (the really good intentions) behind every action you now judge as having been bad for your kids or someone else.

We often need to start by using the places we still blame others–which requires getting REALLY honest, especially if you are out of touch with your anger (we have discussed that you and I often are, so you have to really look and see who you would hold responsible if you let it be safe for your judgments to fly).  Then we can use those very real judgments to find their innocence and original loving intentions, which helps us see our own.

The Damaging Intention to “HELP”

I can see from your last email how easily you connect with the love, hope, and innocent wishes you had for yourself and your kids–even if they ended up driving compulsive or damaging behavior.  In fact, when you look into it, you will find the wish to HELP is behind almost all of our issues with people in relationships!

The places where people get mad at us, feel minimized by us, and where we get mad at them for not accepting our best efforts to help.  It is a lovely intention, but separates humans in a big way.  The times I’ve questioned the thought “They need what I have to say,” (or “What I know or can say/do will help them”), I have always been able to see that it was a huge minimization of their own ability to stand in their power and it was my mind playing God and thinking I knew better.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t act to help people–you will actually act more effectively to do what you can when your thinking isn’t wrapped up in it–when your mind becomes right-sized and humble and you offer it in a way that still acknowledged all they bring to the situation and have no ego investment in whether or not they accept it.

So you will find that the things you did in the name of love were innocent, yes, even when they turned out to look manipulative or self-serving or even malicious.  Whether the motive was to save them or ultimately save myself from the pain of seeing them hurt doesn’t matter.  Either way, it was love–love for ourselves or another is equally valid–that translated into an ineffective or alienating behavior because it was based on a faulty, immature belief.

You suddenly showed up as ready to start tackling the clutter in your life now that your deep inquiry has started helping those driving beliefs to fall away and you have the tools to question the most painful ones that would come up as you start to the release compulsions driven by them.

YAY for you!  Keep writing!  Have you dug out all the kids’ clothes you can find in the house? (Don’t need to tackle the baby clothes yet).  Maybe even set them in the hallway where you have to walk around them if you want, but instead of hating them, look at them with tons of love and thank them for the role they played and wish them well on their journey.  You  might even want to pile them up and roll around on them, letting the little girl part of you be the recipient of all the sweet intention and tender loving care they symbolize… no regrets.

Finally, write down the shaming thoughts you aim at yourself for not having gotten through the clutter or even this one pile.  It’s a goldmine when you clean up the inner abuse that is happening to you.  Then the clothes and guilt about how your grown kids struggle and what a loser you think you are just become wise teachers.



P.S. I also really wanted to ask you how it’s going.  I am sitting here in my office, which is my last bastion of clutter besides my absurd detached garage (it’s really a boat-building workshop, so it’s the size of a 5-car garage–that just INVITES me to fill it with stuff!).

SO I know how many times I’ve intended to tackle this office and haven’t.  And I know that putting myself on an hour-a-day schedule never works with ANYTHING, so I didn’t want to pressure you by asking how it’s going.  IF I tackle something like this, I tend to do it big and do it all at once.  But that’s also why things get worse–I lack the mindset that I can make a dent by just continuing to do a little every day.  I also love coming up with systems, and I think I’ll need to have the system in place before I tackle the job.  So….. I know all the excuses.

And yet I know that I have come far on this scale, and I know you can too.  So…… Without wanting to make you feel bad or push any failure buttons, I DO want to bookend with you about this intention to go through the kids clothes and have others in the family make decisions about their stuff (or stuff you say you are saving for them) and to haul at least one load to wherever it’s going and at least one more to trash.  And to love each piece, and to write down the feelings that come up, and to love yourself–LOTS–while you’re having this fun walk down memory lane and sweet opening of space and love.


Hi Shawn,

Here I am, trying to get through my e-mail so I can call It a day and get to bed.

I think that with clutter (at least as bad as I have it), there is such a huge amount of shame involved with it that people tend to not want to admit that they have that problem.

And the TV programs where everyone is so horrified and derogatory about people who live that way certainly don’t help (or even the shows about people who complain about their clutter, and then I see their bit of laundry strewn about on the floor or whatever, and only wish that my house could be that clean).

That’s interesting, what you said about forgiveness.  I hadn’t drawn the connection between what we talked about last week and me not having forgiven people (or maybe I blanked out that part of the conversation).  That will take some deep thinking about, and perhaps we could work more on that next time.  It might be helpful for me to listen to the recording of our session again first.

I had an unusual weekend, where I wasn’t home at all, so I wasn’t able to do any more on the decluttering.
BUT, I did go through that one pile of clothes and then pass it by my two sons (who weren’t the least bit interested in any of it, and when I said something to my youngest about possibly saving it for his children, he scoffed and then we ended up in an all-night discussion about why he was never going to have children).

I also gave my daughter the right of refusal before I got rid of it, and as I expected, she wasn’t interested in any either.  So the box is still sitting in my vehicle, waiting for an opportunity to find a new home.

By the way, I also happen to think that there’s oftentimes a connection between compulsive overeating and clutter/hoarding.  That would also be something interesting to explore.




What was interesting is that the next week, a big painful event happened that made it glaringly obvious to B. (via our inquiry) that she was blaming herself for something that clearly was not her fault, and yet at the same time was angry underneath for the ways she also believed it was the other person’s fault.  That lack of forgiveness toward both started to become more and more evident running through everything, which allowed it to be questioned. Finding your own and the other’s  innocence–the ‘Spark of Love’ behind every action–is finding your freedom.  This didn’t mean she needed to not follow the legal or other means to be compensated for what had happened and set things right, or to offer to make amends when she finds herself to have caused harm.  What it does mean is that everyone gets to be held in LOVE throughout–as it only hurts us to separate and blame, and only perpetuates fear and separation.