Well-Being//

Why We Should Practice Self-forgiveness

Forgiving yourself is a powerful step toward greater honesty and empathy

Why do we need forgiveness?

We each have a set of morals and values that we use to determine right from wrong; acceptable from unacceptable; good behavior from bad. This moral compass is often largely influenced by our family, faith and social networks, but can be as unique to us as our fingerprints.

There are many times in life when your actions or behavior may offend another, even though you have acted within your own realm of ‘acceptable’. There are times when someone else may upset you because they do not share your exact view on what its ‘right’ or ‘polite’. These conflicts of morality are unavoidable and are why society places a high value on apology and forgiveness.

When we forgive, we surrender to the fact that we have no control over the moral guidelines of another. In doing so we set ourselves free from their choices, actions and behaviors.

But what happens when your break your own rules of morality? What happens when you do something that you, yourself, find unacceptable, immoral … reprehensible?

Are you willing and able to forgive yourself?

It does not matter how disciplined or refined you may be, you are a human being. Therefore, it is inevitable that your social conditioning will sometimes succumb to your “human-ness” (your fallibility, impulsiveness and emotional fragility). You will break your own rules. You will cross your own moral boundaries.

It is inevitable that your social conditioning will sometimes succumb to your “human-ness” (your fallibility, impulsiveness and emotional fragility). You will break your own rules. You will cross your own moral boundaries.

In a world that idolizes perfection and rewards “nice” behavior, it is sometimes hard to forgive others for bad or hurtful behavior. It can be excruciatingly difficult to forgive yourself.

We are very adept at hiding awkward or painful truths from ourselves, so you may not know if you haven’t forgiven yourself for something. Signs to look for include:

You have not yet apologized or taken full responsibility for your actions . Before we are able to confess or apologize for something, we must first reach the point where we can acknowledge and accept our own actions. Sometimes, this can be hard — especially if what we have done is way outside the bounds of who we think we should be, or is contrary to our own sense of what is right. If you find it hard to say sorry, even when you know its deserved, become aware of the battle inside of you. It can often be because apologizing will mean you have to admit to yourself that you are not “good”, “righteous” or “perfect”.

You suffer the effects of guilt and shame . Shame and guilt is a sure sign that you are yet to forgive yourself. It may be that you are hiding this shame from yourself, so look for physical signs when you think of the situation; a tightening of the chest, shortening of breath, clenched fists or flushed cheeks. 

You purposefully avoid people who were impacted by your actions. There is freedom in knowing that you have completely dealt with a situation; when you are in a state of complete honesty, vulnerability and forgiveness, you move beyond any sense of awkwardness or embarrassment. If you are avoiding someone because of something you have done, it is a sign that the situation is still emotionally charged. Reparation and/or forgiveness is still required.

You find yourself judging others vehemently for their behavior. We are all subject to the powerful effects of cognitive dissonance; the discomfort and discord we experience when the world does not fit our deep-set beliefs. If you are not yet comfortable with an action you have taken, you will likely judge that behavior in others whenever you see it. (You are actually judging yourself but are finding it difficult to reconcile your behavior with who you ‘believe yourself to be’. In order to protect yourself from your own disapproval, you turn it outward.) The wider the disconnect between your self image and your actions, the more vehement your judgement of others will be. When you have been able to forgive an action or behavior in yourself, you will find yourself more empathetic and forgiving toward others who exhibit the same behavior.

When you have been able to forgive an action or behavior in yourself, you will find yourself more empathetic and forgiving toward others who exhibit the same behavior.

Self-forgiveness is a major step in accepting the natural range of human experience and behavior. When you have the compassion and understanding to accept fallibility in yourself, it is a natural step to accept it more readily in others.

How do we forgive ourselves?

Self-forgiveness is a deeply personal process of self-awareness, self-love and uncomfortable truth. In order to forgive yourself for your own actions, you must look beyond the conditioning of your mind and accept the true depth of human experience. It will help to reflect on:

– Why do I expect myself to be perfect?

– Whose standards am I trying to live up to?

– What have I learned about others’ motivations and behaviors from my experience.

– What conditions do I place on when and I why I deserve love?

– What conditions do I place on when and why others deserve love?

– How can I use this experience to create greater goodness in my life? In the life of others?

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Kim Forrester is an award-winning author, educator and well being consultant with over 15 years’ experience as a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher. She combines cutting edge science with traditional spirituality to offer the latest understandings of psi, consciousness and holistic well being.

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