Forgiveness is a necessary life skill for anyone living a human existence. We are going to make mistakes; other people are going to make mistakes. We must accept this as a fact of life and learn how to let go of anger and resentment and move forward in a healthy way in order to heal.
Usually when we think of forgiveness we think about forgiving people who have wronged us but even more important and profound is learning to forgive ourselves. Yes, we must let go of the anger, frustration, disgust, disappointment we have towards ourselves; we are allowed to. Forgetting or repressing what we have done keeps us trapped.
When we have been around people who are very hard on themselves and others it can make it difficult for us to learn to forgive. Search for forgiveness stories and realise that people are able to let go of deep hurts and heal. People have found the strength to forgive themselves for worse than we have done, it’s time to stop carrying these burdens.
Compassion towards ourselves leads to compassion towards others and vice versa. This is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. Forgiveness can set us free from people who have hurt us or betrayed our trust. When we hold resentment towards someone, they don’t suffer, we do. We think it brings justice but it’s actually just hurting us. Forgiveness is not for them, it’s for us.
What forgiveness is NOT
Let’s clarify some forgiveness myths:
- Forgiveness is NOT: Denying or pretending something didn’t happen.
- Forgiveness is NOT: Having no consequence for a behaviour.
- Forgiveness is NOT: Having the pain magically go away. It might take a long time to heal.
- Forgiveness is NOT: Finding a way to allow that person to stay in our life.
- Forgiveness is NOT: Changing our boundaries to accommodate Someone else’s behaviour.
If we are suffering due to an inability to forgive ourselves, we can begin by trying to right the wrong. Often, expressing an apology in any form will help you towards self-forgiveness. That doesn’t mean the other person has to forgive us. Our own self-forgiveness is not dependent on others. That being said, if we are really honest and vulnerable with the person about our mistake and offer a heart-felt apology, they are likely to forgive us. We shouldn’t be attached to this outcome though.
If there is nothing more we can do to make it better, we gain nothing by living with guilt and regret. There is something to be learned from the experience, so consciously acknowledge the lesson and implement it in life. Self-reflection is key here. We may need to venture into deep and uncomfortable places within ourselves to truly see why we did something but only then can we understand it, heal it, and trust ourselves not to do it again. Remember that all humans make mistakes and it does not make us bad people. These life experiences are crucial for growth. What is that thing you are still punishing yourself for? Time to let it go.