We have all found ourselves in a place where we needed to forgive someone for what they have done. We receive a heartfelt apology and we usually accept it and move forward.
But what if the person you are mad at is yourself. Then what? Forgiveness is important to the healing process. We need to forgive others as well as ourselves to feel free of the pain, blame and resentment due to anger.
If we hold on to the anger, it affects every decision/choice we make. The anger can stay with us forever and we can quickly become very bitter and resentful. It can cause both physical and emotional consequences but there is a better way. It’s forgiveness. I have noticed a lot of my clients hate the word forgiveness. They think if they forgive someone or even themselves that they justify the behavior. This is not true. Forgiveness is a process of letting go of the pain by feeling the emotions that come up, understanding the pain and finding the purpose/reason for the pain. We know when we have truly forgiven when we can discuss the situation that caused us anger without pain. At this point, we can use our experiences to help others as well as help ourselves.
How To Forgive Yourself:
Look at the big picture of who you are – making mistakes doesn’t make us bad people. Our actions might have not been the best, but it doesn’t man we are bad people. We are much more then that. Don’t let what you have done become your identity. We all have done some bad things that have hurt people (unintentionally) and we also have done many great things. Look at your whole life and you will be able to see both the good and the bad.
Mistakes are teachable/learnable moments. We will all make mistakes and some of these mistakes will affect other people and cause hurt, pain and fear. Don’t let these mistakes take over your thoughts instead ask yourself: What can I learn from the situation? How can I make changes?
Change your Perspective. If a friend came to you and told you what they have done and how it hurt others, what would be your response? Would you tell them everyone makes mistakes? Would you remind them that they are only human? Or that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone? That they did the best the could at the time? How would you soothe them? Would you show compassion? Kindness? Empathy? We all could use a little self-compassion and kindness. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend.
Look deep inside for the root problem -we can have a hard time forgiving ourselves when we don’t love ourselves. We tend to forgive people because we love them. If we truly love and accept ourselves, forgiveness will feel more natural. We will be more willing to forgive ourselves and move forward in life. If you are having feelings of not being lovable, worthy or enough then a good place to start would be learning why you are feeling this way.
Figure out the “why” behind your actions. It’s important to understand why we behaved the way we did. What was causing our behavior that we feel guilty about. Why did we cheat? Why did we criticize our friend? Why did we hit our kids? Etc. Understanding why we behaved in a certain manner can prevent us from doing it again. Self-awareness helps us to make changes and move forward.
Grieve the loss -if you lost a relationship due to your behaviors, then grieve the loss. Feel the emotions caused by the loss.
Offer an apology to the person you hurt, ask for forgiveness, take responsibility for your actions and let them know why it won’t happen again. Apologizing can help us to feel better and find a sense of peace and closure.
When forgiving yourself:
What was your intention? Most likely you will realize it was never your intention to hurt anyone. You can see that deep down, you are a good person who made a mistake.
Be honest with yourself – how are you feeling about your actions? Do you feel bad? Remorseful? Sad?
Have you asked the person for forgiveness who you have hurt?
What are you willing to do to make amends?
What have you learned from your behaviors/actions? How can you make changes in the future?
What will happen if you don’t forgive yourself?
Have you shown yourself some self-compassion? Empathy? Look at the big picture of what type of person are you truly?
Why did you hurt the person? Was it because your afraid? Avoiding your own pain?