What is Self-Forgiveness…and why do we need it?
We understand forgiveness as something we’re supposed to do when others hurt us. But even as we’re reconciling with the troublemakers in our lives, we recognize a part of us that also wants to accept some responsibility. Self-forgiveness is how we deal with our adult decisions and their unpredictable outcomes.
We try to deny culpability because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of value in pointing fingers in our own direction, or adding labels like “bad” and “wrong.” We want to feel empowered by our decisions, not beat ourselves up for choosing something that doesn’t go well.
But choose, we did.
Between blaming ourselves for our stupidity or others for the ways they hurt us, is there any middle ground?
Yes, there is. Deep down we know there’s empowerment in taking responsibility for our thoughts, actions, and decisions. If we claim them, there’s also freedom. It’s an intimate experience called self-forgiveness.
Self-forgiveness is a unique way of interacting with our minds, acknowledging that we make choices in good faith and they don’t always turn out the way we imagine. One that understands that we’re all trying to get our needs met given the resources we have on hand. We’re all seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
Even a plant bends unapologetically toward the light.
Self-forgiveness requires that we acknowledge our past decisions were made in that spirit. You did what you had to do to meet very real needs at the time. Self-forgiveness asks you to love a younger, less perfect version of yourself with all the challenges and struggles you faced. That vulnerable part of you survived to give you today.
Self-forgiveness allows us to challenge false beliefs, things we were told about who we are that aren’t true. As children, we believed all we were told. Survival depended upon it. But much of what we learned then won’t serve us well today. We need forgiveness to help us uncover these misconceptions and let them go. We need forgiveness to show us the truth about who we are so we can believe in our best selves now.
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They say it’s important to forgive others when they cause us pain, but it’s even more important to practice self-forgiveness for that part of you that stepped into the arena with a person who couldn’t love you or entered an agreement that wasn’t in your best interest. Understand that you needed something you thought they could give you. And for that, we’ll call you human and vulnerable, but never stupid.
Self-forgiveness is not a self-righteous belief that you’ve never done anything wrong. It doesn’t exonerate us from saying we’re sorry for our part, but it does allow us to apologize with sincerity instead of shame. True self- forgiveness teaches us compassion, one of the most difficult human qualities we’ll ever learn – the ability to empathize or see yourself in others even when it isn’t pretty.
Self-forgiveness when fully embraced teaches us how to love ourselves better. It affirms our resilience and good-heartedness. It connects us to other humans through compassion and a realistic view of our own wants and needs. We’re all human, but we often forget to act like it.
What would you forgive yourself for today?