Five Questions about Self-Forgiveness

Of all the people in the world, who do we tend to be hardest on when we mess up?

Right, ourselves.

If we self-forgive, is it illegitimate because we are then the judge and the defendant in the case?

Self Forgiveness2Self-forgiveness is not about jurisprudence.  It is about goodness.  We can offer goodness to ourselves.

If we self-forgive, aren’t we just letting ourselves off the moral hook?

No.  When we self-forgive we should go to the ones we have hurt and make amends.  We are not letting ourselves off the hook when we try to make things right.

But, self-forgiveness is about forgiving myself for offending myself.  Why are we talking about making amends toward other people?

We talk about this because we do not offend ourselves in isolation.  If you think about it, if you are very unjust to yourself, others such as partner, family, co-workers, and even the community might be affected, depending on what the offense is.

What should I expect if and when I forgive myself?

Inner peace and the conviction not to do that again.

Robert

10 thoughts on “Five Questions about Self-Forgiveness

  1. Samantha February 22, 2014 / 9:46 pm

    The hardest person to forgive always seems to be oneself. Thanks for hints to accomplish this.

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  2. Charles February 24, 2014 / 8:42 pm

    It takes a lot of humility to accept that we have hurt others when hurting ourselves. And yet we can get up again because of self-forgiveness.

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  3. Chris February 24, 2014 / 8:46 pm

    Charles, but don’t we have to be careful here. Say I am an alcoholic. I forgive myself, say sorry, and hit the bottle again and again and again. Seems to be an excuse to me.

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  4. Charles February 24, 2014 / 9:06 pm

    Chris, you are talking about a great big trick someone is playing on himself and not self-forgiveness. People can do the same with regular forgiveness, right? They can fake forgiveness to be admired for example. Neither are the genuine article.

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  5. Jamie February 25, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    But we can’t be our own judge. If we did something wrong how can we be the ones to forgive ourselves? That belongs to God alone. So we have to ask God to forgive us.

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    • Jichan February 25, 2014 / 9:10 pm

      If we feel guilty and shameful because we violated our own moral standards (we know when we violate them because of our built-in measure called conscience), we can consider forgiving ourselves as a form of love despite what we did wrong to ourselves.

      Self-forgiveness is far from letting ourselves off the hook because if forgiveness is understood correctly, we always have to begin with acknowledging what we did wrong as objectively as possible.

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  6. Jamie February 25, 2014 / 10:00 pm

    Jichan, but how can we judge ourselves accurately? We sometimes hide our own wrong and sometimes exaggerate it. This is why I am having a hard time with the idea of self-forgiveness. Is it as objective as seeing another person’s behavior as wrong?

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    • Jichan February 28, 2014 / 1:40 pm

      Hi Jamie,
      “Judging” can be used in many different contexts. I do not judge in the context of jurisprudence or divine forgiveness of sins. I try hard not to judge others by speaking ill of them. However, I really hope to judge myself as objectively as possible so that I know when I offend others or sin against God. If I violate my moral standards and become angry at myself, I will try to go on the challenging journey of forgiving myself; first by examining what I did wrong as objectively as possible and second by making amends if necessary (if my wrongdoing involves others).

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  7. Neva February 26, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    Jamie, I do not see anything wrong with self-forgiveness. Forgiveness is all about love and giving it to those who do wrong. If I am the one who does wrong then I need to love myself if I am now angry at who I am. You say we don’t see clearly when we forgive ourselves. Do we really see clearly in the other kind of forgiveness when we start in confusion and resentment? I don’t think so but that does not make forgiveness a bad thing.

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  8. Marta February 28, 2014 / 12:37 pm

    Don’t we have an obligation to forgive all people? That would include me. So I do have an obligation to love myself when I do wrong and that is to self-forgive.

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