How Do I Forgive Myself…
When I'm the One Who's Caused So Much Hurt and Pain?
Stop for a moment and listen to this: you have the power to punish yourself for the rest of your life. You can carry the burden of past mistakes with you (all the way to the grave), and you can nail yourself to a cross every day. No one can stop you, BUT … you ALSO have the power to forgive yourself, overlook your mistakes, and let yourself off the hook. BOTH choices are yours to make, but you can’t choose one and have the other.
The key to forgiving yourself can be summed up in one word: permission.
That’s what makes self-forgiveness such a challenge. Too many of us are waiting for “a sign” or “someone else” to come along and give us permission to let go of our past.
News Flash: THERE'S NO ONE HANDING OUT PERMISSION SLIPS!
Like breathing, sneezing and walking … forgiving yourself is something YOU have to do FOR YOURSELF.
The Seduction of Guilt
Guilt can become a very seductive state of mind. Some people would rather DIE than give up the guilt they carry. I believe this comes from the “suffering” mentality we have developed over time. In the West, it’s common to believe that if we use guilt and blame to mentally beat ourselves up, we’ll force ourselves to become better people.
It just doesn't work.
Feeling guilty will NOT help you improve. It’s been proven time and time again. Pain doesn’t lead to positive change. The fact is, beating up on ourselves has never produced anything but self-loathing. Think about it. If you keep inflicting pain on yourself, it’s only a matter of time until you wind up hating who you are.
Guilt is the REAL enemy here!
Why? Because it focuses on the “person” being wrong instead of their behavior. This is a destructive (rather than a corrective) response. Instead of wallowing in guilt and self-pity, a better choice would be to forgive yourself while accepting responsibility for your actions. If you must condemn, condemn the mistake… NOT the mistake-maker.
How to Take Responsibility Without Taking on GUILT
Make a note of this: consequence and punishment are NOT the same.
Taking responsibility means you’re willing to face the consequences of your actions in whatever way you can. It also means you’re willing to look inside and make changes in your thinking and behaving patterns. Taking responsibility also includes making peace with the past, along with actually forgiving yourself.
Some very good reasons for forgiving yourself:
With this new understanding, I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no need to condemn yourself for anything you may have done (including betrayal of another). You can move forward, learn, and grow from this experience.
The Art of Self-Forgiveness
It’s not always enough to be forgiven by your partner… you also must learn to forgive yourself.
Guilt is a very destructive and deadening emotion. Holding grudges, hanging on to bitterness or remorse directed at yourself puts you in an emotional prison. “Unforgiveness” has been linked to cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses. Learning to forgive yourself isn’t just an act of kindness… it’s the best defense against an unhappy life. The act of self-forgiveness changes the energy and physical structures of your cells and DNA.
Mistakes call for correction, not punishment.
The starting point of self-forgiveness is letting go of the “expectancy” of punishment. This means no more beating yourself up, or believing you must “suffer” to “pay” for your mistakes.
Does this mean your action will never have consequences? Not at all. There’s a universal law called “The Law of Cause and Effect”, which is always in motion. It requires no help from me (or you) in deciding just how things will play out. Our only job is to be willing to see things from the best light possible and take responsibility for change.
Stop trying to rewrite the past in the present.
The essence of True Forgiveness is the giving up of all hope of having a better past.
- Gerald Jampolsky
You’ll never be able to change the past. But what you can change is the meaning you carry about the past.
Maybe you did cheat. You may have even manipulated, deceived, denied, and willingly broken wedding vows. But let me ask you this. What does any of this truly say about you?
This all depends on the story you tell yourself.
It could mean you still have some lessons to learn. It could mean that deep inside, you have places ready and waiting to be healed. It could signal an inner conflict. It could say many things… but what it DOESN’T say is that you’re a bad person, or that you deserve to be punished or to suffer as a result.
Fact is, mistakes don’t call for punishment… they call for correction. Punishing yourself doesn’t change your behavior — only self-awareness does that.
Choose to accept (and not reject) yourself.
The choice to forgive yourself is the choice to love yourself. We can’t avoid choice. Abdication of choice IS a choice. Self-forgiveness carries the implication that all events are purposeful and ultimately worthwhile.
Practical Steps to Self-Forgiveness
- Admit when you make mistakes. As a mistake-maker, you’re gloriously human. (You’re not supposed to be perfect.)
- Remind yourself everybody is doing the best they can with the level of understanding they have at any moment in their lives (including you).
- Let go of “past-future” thinking. Stay present. Stay in the NOW.
- Confront your emotional conflicts. Be willing to “own” your stuff.
- Appreciate the lessons. Your mistakes have contributed to your growth and have helped to make you who you are.
- One of the best ways to learn how to forgive yourself is by continually forgiving others. Say “I forgive ______________ for_____________, and let them go in peace.” (Just fill in the blanks.)
A Final Lesson in Self-Forgiveness
Welcome to the classroom of life. Today’s lesson is self-forgiveness. In order to help you learn this lesson, you will be given a series of social challenges. In them, you’ll play the role of the “mistake-maker”. You’ll have to lie, cheat, deny, manipulate and hurt others in order to play your part. If you play your part well, others will confuse YOU for the mistake. The objective of this lesson is to learn to accept forgiveness for yourself, while offering the same to other mistake-makers (regardless of behavior).
NOTE: This lesson repeats itself until the student learns that forgiveness is a preexisting condition of life!
Forgiving means: “For Giving” ( in favor of giving )
This means the act of self-forgiveness is a favor you do for yourself. You’re saying… this mistake can be overlooked. I can “for give” it away.
Self-forgiveness is the same as self-love.
Every thought you direct at yourself is either an unforgiving thought or a forgiving thought. People who choose to direct unforgiving thoughts towards themselves don’t have high self-esteem. People who ONLY direct forgiving thoughts toward themselves develop and maintain high self-esteem. In other words… Self-Forgiveness equals Self-Esteem. You simply can’t have one without the other.
Are you ready to thrive during stressful times?
Then self-forgiveness is the “get-out-of-jail” card you need. If you’re ready to rediscover that sense of trust, freedom, innocence and confidence once again, then I invite you to set up an appointment for you and I to talk — right now, while you’re thinking about it. I know I can help you find that “inner guide” to forgiving yourself. And even if the guilt, blame and shame are weighing on you like a 1000-pound gorilla hanging on your back… you WILL be able to let it go.
What makes me so sure?
I’m certain because I understand… you didn’t invent any of the mistakes you made. You were not the first to be seduced by the dark side (and you won’t be the last).
Here’s the beautiful truth:
You can come out of the dark anytime you want. Self-forgiveness is the first step. So, don’t wait, don’t hesitate, and don’t spend another moment in emotional exile. Suffering is NOT a prerequisite for life.
You can be happy now exactly as you are. You deserve nothing less. Don’t you agree?
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!