HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR A BIG MISTAKE—EVEN IF NO ONE ELSE WILL

Editor’s Note: Well+Good, a website launched in 2010, bills itself as “the premier lifestyle and news publication devoted to the wellness scene.” Here are excerpts from its March 12, 2018 article on how to forgive yourself, let go of the past, and create a more meaningful feature. 


Photo: Stocksy/Artem Zhushman

You messed up big-time.  You feel awful and you want to make things right with the person you’ve hurt. You’ve finally worked up the courage to say, from the bottom of your heart, that you’re deeply sorry. But—surprise!—they don’t want to hear it. For them, the damage is done and their anger towards you is too strong for any kind of forgiveness.

It can be devastating for an apology to be denied, but another person’s forgiveness of you and your actions doesn’t have to determine how you continue to treat others—and, ultimately, yourself. Of course, that’s no easy task for many, considering we’re infinitely harder on ourselves than anyone else.


“I forgive” really is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.                                                                                                       Aly Semigran, Well+Good


“When we break our own standards, a lot of times we won’t let ourselves ‘off the hook,’ so to speak,” says Robert Enright, PhD, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and author of Forgiveness Is a Choice. “Self-forgiveness is not a free pass to keep up the nonsense. It’s to restore your humanity to yourself, as you correct [the damage you’ve done].”

Okay, but how?

Apologize without expectations

Even if you don’t think the hurt party will forgive you, Enright says that apologizing is the right thing to do, and it’s an important step in the process of self-forgiveness.  “Seeking forgiveness and forgiving yourself go hand in hand,” proclaims Enright.

Make an effort to right your wrongs

You should also make an effort to right your wrongs—for instance, paying your roommate back if you’ve been sneaking money from her wallet. “You can set yourself free knowing you’ve done the best you can,” says Enright. “You can get rid of the resentment towards yourself, understanding that you are a human being, and try to see you’re a person beyond what you’ve done. You’re more than that action.”

Dive deep into your emotions with a therapist, friend, or journaling

Photo: Stocksy/Kim Jay

The cycle of guilt and self-loathing is far too easy a place to get stuck, sometimes for a very long time. And it can have a serious impact on your health—when you stay trapped in a shame loop, it can lead to issues such as sleeplessnessdepression, self-medication, and lack of proper nutrition and/or exercise. (Not to mention it’s a blow to your gut health.)

Enright suggests those on a journey of self-forgiveness try things such as going to a respected therapist, seeking out a friend or confidante, trying meditation  or mindfulness, or journaling to deal with ongoing emotions and thoughts.

Don’t get attached to the outcome 

While you’re working to forgive yourself, it’s important not to get stuck on the other person’s reaction to you. “Your forgiving yourself should never be [contingent on] what the other person does or says,” Enright says. “It’s the same thing with forgiving another: If I want to forgive another, but I have to wait for their apology, then I’m still trapped in that resentment.”

You don’t have to sabotage your own happiness when you do something terrible. Learn to forgive yourself.

Read the entire article: How to Forgive Yourself for a Big Mistake


Read other forgiveness articles on Well+Good:


 

What is the difference between forgiveness and acceptance and does the first one truly have an impact on the angry feelings? What is the mechanism that help us forgive someone who made us angry? Thank you.

To forgive is to deliberately decide and to actually do good toward those who have not been good to the forgiver.  One can accept a situation by having indifference or annoyance toward the offending person.  In other words, while accepting the situation, a person might say, “The one who offended me is at so low a moral level that this is not worth a fight.  I accept what happened and I move on.”  Forgiveness includes seeing the inherent worth in the other.
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Research shows that as people genuinely forgive, their anger can go down significantly as can anxiety and psychological depression.  The “mechanism” for forgiving includes a number of steps in the process of forgiveness that are detailed in my books, Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, and 8 Keys to Forgiveness.  The gist of the “mechanism” is this:  The forgiver commits to doing no harm to the offending person, struggles to see the inherent worth of the other (not because of what was done, but in spite of this), and then patiently awaits the development of compassion toward the other.

Is Forgiving for the Forgiver or for the One Who Offended?

So frequently I hear this: “Forgiveness is for you, the one who was injured.”

I think this actually can be a distortion of what forgiveness is.  We need to make a distinction between:

  • the end point or goal of forgiveness, and
  • a consequence of forgiving.

These are different.  The goal is that to which forgiveness actually points.  Given that forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is concerned about goodness toward others.  Justice as a moral virtue is not primarily for the self but for all with whom you come into contact directly or indirectly.  Patience is directed toward those who are moving slower than you would like.  Yes, one can be fair or just to the self and patient toward the self, but these are not the primary goals of either virtue.  They are outwardly directed to others.  It is the same with forgiveness because, like justice and patience, it too is a moral virtue.  The end point of forgiving is to reach out in goodness directly toward the one or ones who have been unfair to you.

Yes, there is such a thing as self-forgiveness, but notice that the wording is intended to expressly direct the attention toward the self.  In the case of forgiving as it typically is used, the word “self” is not included.

A consequence of forgiving, shown frequently by our research, is that as a person extends goodness toward offending others, then the one who forgives experiences considerable emotional relief.  Excessive anger, anxiety, and depression all can go down in the one who genuinely forgives.

These emotional-health consequences, while very positive and desirable, are not the ultimate goal of engaging in the moral virtue of forgiving.  If it were, then this would be the goal for all of the moral virtues and such practice likely would degenerate into self-serving activities and therefore not be virtuous at all.

Is forgiving for the forgiver?  No, this is not its goal.  Is a consequence of forgiving emotional relief for the forgiver?  Yes.  And this distinction between goal and consequence makes all the difference in understanding what forgiveness is and what it can accomplish within the self.

Robert

Dr. Robert Enright Named “Pioneer and Founder of Forgiveness Science”

Editor’s Note: That designation was issued by CRUX Media last week as part of an intense and revealing interview with Dr. Enright that was conducted while he was in Rome for the Rome Forgiveness Conference at the University of Santa Croce. 

Among the interview questions addressed by Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, were these: What does the science of forgiveness tell us? What are the consequences of forgiving?  In such battle-scarred parts of the world as Northern Ireland, does your science work? Do you find religious people are more inclined to forgive?


ROME – Scientific study of the world has been around for a while now, so it’s rare these days to meet the founder of an entirely new branch of science. That, however, is what you’ve got in full living color in the person of Robert Enright, a Catholic who teaches at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and who pioneered what’s today known as “forgiveness science.”

Enright has spent the last thirty-plus years developing hard, empirical answers, including a four-phase, twenty-step process to lead patients to forgive. He insists data prove it has positive effects, including tangible reductions in anxiety, anger and psychological depression, and gains in self-esteem and optimism about the future.

Enright is in Rome this week, to speak at a Jan. 18 conference on forgiveness at the University of the Holy Cross, the Opus Dei-sponsored university here. He’s applied his tools in some of the world’s least forgiving places, including Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, and Liberia.  .  .  .

Read the rest of Dr. Enright’s interview with John L. Allen Jr., Editor of CRUX Media, an international, independent Catholic media outlet operated in partnership with the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization.

John L. Allen Jr. has written nine books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs and is a renowned columnist and speaker in both the US and internationally. His articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, The Tablet, Jesus, Second Opinion, The Nation, the Miami Herald, Die Furche, the Irish Examiner, and many other publications.

He has received honorary doctorates from four universities in the US and Canada, is a senior Vatican analyst for CNN, and was a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter for 16 years. Allen is a native of Kansas, a state in the exact geographic center of the US.

Forgiveness as Order

I was reflecting on all of the disorder within schools during 2015 and 2016.  It has been reported that there were 35 shootings at schools in the United States in this two-year period.  Think about that for a moment. The context of the shootings centers on innocent children, adolescents, and young adults (at universities) who are unarmed and innocent.

Such disorder.

How many family break-ups were there in 2015-16 or acts of bullying that cut deeply into the very being of those bullied?

Such disorder.

Forgiveness is a profound response to disorder.  What do you think?  Do you think any of those school shootings would have happened if the ones responsible for the mayhem had practiced forgiveness and rightly ordered their emotions from rage to calm?

What do you think?  Do you think all of the family break-ups would have happened if both sides of the conflict practiced forgiveness?  And perhaps the forgiveness needed to be toward people from years before because our left-over anger from childhood can follow us into adulthood and strike the innocent.

Forgiveness likely could have averted some of those break-ups if forgiveness toward each other in the present and toward parents from the past had been practiced.  Forgiveness could have restored order……..and prevented disorder.

The same theme applies to bullying.  If those who bully could only forgive those who have abused them, would the bullying continue or would the behavior become more orderly, more civil?

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for restoring order within an injured self, within relationships, and within and between communities. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for preventing disorder.

What do you think?  Do you think that forgiveness could save our planet from destruction by enraged people with the weaponry to destroy?Forgiveness is about order, protection, wholeness, and love.

It is time for individuals and communities to see this and to have the courage to bring forgiveness into the light….to restore and then enhance order while it destroys disorder.

Robert

On Reversing Pessimism

When we are treated unjustly by others, we slowly can become more apathetic about everything. Consider this quotation from G.K. Chesterton on the matter:

“It matters very little whether a man isFlowers discontented in the name of pessimism or progress, if his discontent does in fact paralyse his power of appreciating what he has got.”

Forgiveness can reverse the apathy and the pessimism and increase our appreciation of situations and other people.

Robert

I am reading your book, “Forgiveness is a Choice,” and I am wondering… Does forgiveness apply in the case of a husband who is constantly mean and untrustworthy? The examples in the book seem to all be regarding a single past hurt, or an offense that occurred in the past. What about offenses that are ongoing but unrepented of and unresolved? I am Catholic, so I very much agree with forgiveness and starting over, etc. But I don’t know how to respond to unchanging behaviors that are sinful against me. Continual forgiveness?? Is it possible to not be resentful and bitter?

First, we have to realize that to forgive does not mean that you abandon the quest for justice. Forgive and from this place of diminished anger, let your husband know of your wounded heart and exactly why it is so wounded. He may reject your feelings at first, but this does not mean he will continually reject the truth.

You need to practice continual forgiveness, every day if you have the strong will for this. And pray about when it is the best time to once again ask for justice and even compassion from your husband. Was he deeply hurt as a child? If so, he may be displacing his anger onto you. Perhaps you both need to read Forgiveness Is a Choice…..together.