The Toughest of All — Forgiving Oneself

I was talking yesterday to a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is starting a study on the psychology of forgiveness. She asked people about their experiences in forgiving, especially for serious offenses.

Her interviews led to this conclusion: The hardest person to forgive usually is oneself. Why is that?

It seems to me that we are a lot harder on ourselves than we are on other people, even those who behave very unjustly. We hold ourselves to a much higher standard.

So, here are some helpful forgiveness hints for you if you are trying or in the future are in a position to forgive yourself.

First, try forgiving someone other than yourself. The point here is to try to get a sense of the the process of forgiveness. Once you have forgiven another, ask yourself these questions:

Have I seen this other person as someone of worth?

Do I have a softened heart, at least to a degree, for this person?

Have I tried to bear the pain of what happened so that I do not take it out on that person or others?

Now, turn this learning toward yourself and try to:

  • see yourself as possessing worth
  • soften your heart toward yourself, just as you did for the other person
  • bear the pain of what you did so that you do not keep beating yourself up over it.

Then add the following:

If you have offended anyone else by your actions, go to him or her and apologize. Seek forgiveness. Make things right.

If you are a person of faith, see what your next step is in the bigger picture.

Resolve to change your ways…..and then go in peace.
Dr. Bob

One thought on “The Toughest of All — Forgiving Oneself

  1. Jacque September 10, 2012 / 6:26 am

    I am always hardest on myself. This is not so great. Thanks for the challenge to start having compassion even on me.


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