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.