Yes, self-forgiveness is a thing. It means having compassion for yourself. It means letting go of the resentment and anger you have towards yourself for a past mistake or failure or a decision you made when you didn’t know any better.
Some people are open about how they find it hard to forgive themselves for an injudicious decision they made that probably ruined the perfect plans they had for themselves.
It could be that you didn’t prepare well enough for an exam you could have easily aced, which made you repeat a semester or getting pregnant at a young age which slowed down your dreams of finishing school in time and kicking off with a profitable career like the rest of your peers.
It could be how unfairly you treated someone when you were not as enlightened as you are now, it could be not voicing out how you truly felt about someone when you had the chance to. It could be hurting a friend or disappointing someone who depended on you. It could be knocking someone down with your car and they died. It was an accident yet you can’t seem to forgive yourself for not being careful enough. It could be all those terrible things that you now regret doing.
Whatever it is, we are human and because we are imperfect, there is that tendency for us to do things we would regret in the long run. Because we keep evolving and learning as we grow, we would realize that there were decisions we had made in the past that if only we had known what we now know, we would have done better. Everyone has felt this way. I have. I’m certain you must have as well.
What is that one thing you cannot forgive yourself for? How have you managed to live with a terrible past?
An author named Brennan Manning once told a story of a time when he spent 28 days in a treatment program for alcoholics. One day during a group therapy session, everyone was encouraged to disclose to the group the truth about the extent of their drinking.
They sat in a circle, and each person took the opportunity to elaborate on their drinking history. Everyone except for a successful businessman named Max. He said, “I never really drank that much.” The group members told him, “You’re in an alcoholic treatment centre. Be honest with yourself and admit you have a problem.” He said, “I am being honest. I’ve never had that much to drink.”
Later on, the group had to answer the question, “Have you ever hurt anybody while you were drunk?” Everyone shared their truth until they got to Max, who said, “I would never hurt anyone, sober or drunk.”
The group leader replied, “Max, we don’t believe you. What would your wife say if we were to ask her?” The group leader eventually did call Max’s wife on a speakerphone for everyone to hear. Max’s wife answered and the leader asked, “Has Max ever mistreated you or any of your kids when he was drunk?”
Max’s wife said, “Just this last Christmas Eve he took our 9-year-old daughter shopping. On the way home, Max passed a bar and noticed cars belonging to his friends, so he pulled in. That night, it was only 12 degrees with a high wind chill, but Max left the car running so the heater could stay on. He told our daughter he’d be right back out.”
Everyone looked shocked, as she continued. “Max went inside and started drinking with his buddies, and he didn’t come out until midnight. The car had run out of gas and shut off. The windows had frozen, so he was unable to open any of the doors. When the authorities came, they opened the door and rushed our daughter to the hospital. Her thumb and forefinger were frostbitten so severely that she had to have them amputated. Her ears were so damaged by the cold that she’ll be deaf for the rest of her life.” The group turned to Max, who had fallen off his chair and was convulsing on the floor.
Max was convulsing on the floor because of the truth about himself. The truth was a reality he couldn’t handle, so he had been living in denial. He was living in a fantasy world because he couldn’t forgive himself and move past his mistakes.
Self-forgiveness is not easy because it involves recognizing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Some view the act as a reminder of not being a perfect person. People want to move on but find it hard to do so without doing what is necessary to make peace from within. One way to find peace from within is to forgive yourself and let go of your imperfect past. An article by verywellmind says that there are 4Rs to self-forgiveness. Responsibility, Remorse, Repair and Renewal.
In the story I shared a few paragraphs above, Max was not willing to accept responsibility for his actions. He had not confronted it nor accepted that he had scarred his daughter for life. Notice the twist in the end when he was confronted with his actions. In the journey to self-forgiveness, you need to accept responsibility for your mistakes. Yes, you did it. By taking responsibility and accepting that you have engaged in actions that have hurt others, you can avoid negative emotions, such as excessive regret and guilt.
Secondly, Show Remorse. Following your action to accept responsibility. You’d experience a plethora of emotions from anger to guilt to disgust. It’s okay to show remorse and feel bad that you did what you did. It’s okay to cry it out if you need to.
The next thing is to repair the damage your action caused. Was it someone you hurt, reach out to them and apologize. Was the damage done to yourself, write yourself a note to apologize for the years you held such hatred and resentment towards yourself. Do whatever you can in your power to rectify the wrong done. This act will make you feel better and help you foster positive thoughts about yourself.
Lastly, focus on renewal. You have accepted responsibility, showed remorse, and repaired the damage the best way you can. The next and final step to self-forgiveness is to learn to gradually move on from that bad experience. This will not be easy as it sounds. Occasionally the guilt will creep in and you might want to wallow in regrets all over again, but this is the point you remind yourself that you have put effort to repair the damage. Focus on your emotions and be sure you have fed yourself enough positive affirmations to counter these guilt trips.
Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. – Tara Brach
Today, I forgive myself for the hurtful things I have said to people. I forgive myself for thinking a friend was faking her illness when in fact the illness later took her life. Today, I forgive myself for the deliberate and unintended hurt I caused people.
What do you forgive yourself for?
We hope you enjoyed reading from us today, let us know what you have forgiven yourself for. We look forward to reading from you.