This is definitely possible, but surely is not always the case. Sometimes, as we know, people are unjust to us and our disappointment within ourselves is not the cause of our anger toward these people .Yet, if you sense that Person A, someone you wish to help, is continually finding fault with many people and your sincere judgement is that these others are not behaving nearly as badly as Person A is saying, then yes, your plan of action seems reasonable. Gently ask Person A if she is dissatisfied with herself, perhaps she has broken her own standard. Self-forgiveness then may be the best place to start.
You are not alone when you say it is hardest to forgive yourself. Most of us are harder on ourselves than on others. So, welcome to a large and not-so-exclusive club. The pathway to forgiving oneself is actually not that different from forgiving other people. That pathway, of forgiving others, is discussed in detail in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice (available for purchase from this website). I recommend that book because the forgiveness pathway described there has the most scientific support of any forgiveness model out there.
OK, now to self-forgiveness. When you forgive yourself, the complication is that you are both an offended person and an offender. At the very least, you have offended yourself, you have broken your own standard in what you did or said. And, I might add, we rarely offend ourselves in isolation. So, a first step may be to go to those whom you have offended and say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. Please realize that those whom you approach may or may not be ready to give the gift of forgiveness. Thus, please be patient and understanding. A second step then is to offer to yourself in forgiveness what you offer to others when you forgive them—compassion, gentleness, understanding, and love. Yes, even love. Give yourself permission, as an imperfect person, to love yourself despite what you did to offend yourself. You are larger than your actions and words. You are more important than only your unjust words and actions, as is every person in the world. Allow this perspective toward yourself to gently wash over you until you believe it. This is the essence of self-forgiveness.
Forgiving yourself is a process, as is forgiving other people. If I had to choose one issue for you as you begin, it would be this: Start by forgiving others first so that you get to know the process of forgiveness. As you offer gentleness and kindness to others in forgiving them, then when you forgive yourself, apply that same kind of gentleness and kindness to yourself.
It sounds to me that even if others forget what you did, you are not going to forget. So, others’ views will not change yours. May I suggest a balance here. I know you do not want to forget what you did so that you do not engage in that behavior again. At the same time, you might consider forgiving yourself if you are clinging to the memory of what you did and thus continue to condemn yourself for this. If you forgive yourself, you still are not likely to forget, but instead to remember in new ways. In other words, when you look back on the situation, you will not condemn yourself and feel excessively guilty as you recall what you did. Your worry that you will completely forget will not materialize because, when you forgive yourself, you tend to remember in new ways rather than literally blotting out the transgression from memory.
When you forgive others, if you did nothing wrong, then you do not ask for forgiveness. When you forgive yourself, you usually offend others by what you did. Thus, self-forgiveness involves not only welcoming yourself back into the human community but also seeking forgiveness from others for hurting them by this particular action.
To enjoy life peacefully, a very important aspect is to learn to forgive.
Forgiveness is to let go that which no longer serves us, freeing us to heal and move forward with ease and lightness. But for many of us, forgiving is a very hard thing to do.
The simplest things in life are often the best gifts. But they may also not be that simple.
The best gift people can give to each other are the gifts of forgiveness, peace, love, respect, and a smile, as we forget all the wrongs, we believe have been done to us.
Have we thought about giving ourselves the gift of forgiveness this year?
The way I learnt it was back when we came to Canada in 1989. At the time I didn’t speak or understand any English and was living at my aunt’s house with her family and my family being together. It started small, but over time it had an insidious effect. My aunt started teasing us, which slowly turned to insult, then bullying behaviour: we are useless here, we will be struggling, doing factory labour work… and on, and on. It started as just a joke but later turned into real verbal bullying.
At first, I thought it was nothing serious. No big deal. I thought she might realize and will change one day.
But slowly I started feeling depressed and began to brood about it. That eventually turned to actual, physical headaches every day. I felt like as if I was in hell. My mother was trying to help me, but as the bullying was not stopping, we decided that the only solution was to move to another place. And we did finally move out and get our own apartment — and then I had no more problems with bullying. But I also never showed my face to my aunt for a good five years after that. So much so that she noticed and began to complain to my mom and elder sisters.
One day we met at a family event, and she demonstrated to me, “What have I done wrong?” I explained to her, “Aunty, I love you and will always have respect for you and your opinions. But in this case, I am finding it very hard to dismiss the nasty comments you made about me and my family. I found I could not let such remarks go. They were hurtful, cruel… and though you aimed them to me and my family, I was the one you hurt. I hope that was unintentional.” She realized her part and felt bad and said, “Sorry!” Anyways, it will remain as an awful memory.
The road to forgiveness, it was hard. But I learnt to forgive her, with patience. It took time. When I thought of her, the urge to avoid her — worse, to get back at her, and treat her in kind — was strong. But I worked hard to get it off my chest and forgive her, and then I felt much better. True, I may never be able to forget what she did to me. But when I eventually learnt to forgive, it released the burden, and the floodgates of my negative emotions!
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or minimizing the pain we feel, nor is it about excusing others. Forgiveness means making a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of our feelings of resentment or revenge, regardless of whether the person who has upset us deserves it.
So, are you ready to be free and ready to move ahead into the future?
We have to let go of our mistakes and forgive ourselves and forgive others just as God forgives us. Completely and with no reservations!
Have a wonderful life and peace!
Surjit Singh Florais a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Training the mind to see one’s own inherent worth can go a long way in recovery.
So often, I see that people, who have done their best in a failed relationship, fall in self-esteem. The person might have tried hard, wanted to maintain the connection, and yet it did not work out. Despite the best of intentions, the one left behind ends up not liking……..oneself.
You would think it would be the other way around. The one who walked away or behaved badly should be on the receiving end of the dislike. Yet, it is so often toward the self that the negativism is most deeply directed.
I have six suggestions for you as a way of resurrecting a positive self-image after relationships fail:
First, take the courageous inventory of your part in the breakup. If you were behaving in destructive ways, admit this, know what is destructive about your behavior and take steps to change. You even can begin to forgive yourself for your own part in the break-up.
Second, if you did not contribute to the relationship’s demise, own that thought. We are used to hearing that it takes two to ruin a relationship, but that just is not the case. Sometimes one person can independently destroy what the other has tried to build. If you did not contribute to the destruction of the relationship, start to admit this to yourself. You were not perfect in the relationship because no one is. Yet, imperfection itself is not necessarily a cause for the actual destruction of a partnership.
Third, if you tried your best, then realize that you are not to blame for another’s difficulties or weaknesses. The other is free to make misfortunate decisions, even if these decisions hurt both of you.
Fourth, try to practice toward yourself the idea of inherent worth. You have value, inestimable value, as a person because you are special, unique, and irreplaceable in this world. This worth is unconditional, not earned as some kind of reward for good behavior.
A strictly biological perspective can show you this. For example, you have unique DNA so that when your time in this world is through, there never will be another person exactly like you on this earth……ever. You are…..special…..unique…..and irreplaceable. People with certain religious viewpoints can go beyond the biological to the transcendent and say, “God loves me” or “I am made in the image and likeness of God.” In other words, you are…..special……unique……and irreplaceable.
Fifth, begin to practice this idea that you have inherent or built-in worth.You can do this by extending this knowledge to others first and then to you. For example, as you pass people on the street, you can think: “This person has built-in worth that cannot be earned. That person over there may have weaknesses, but this does not detract from having worth. I, too, share this in common with them. I, too, have inherent worth.”
Sixth and finally, once you have strengthened the idea that you are a person of inherent worth, then apply that knowledge to yourself in the context of the past relationship(s): Despite the fact that this failed, I have worth. I am not defined by the success or failure of a relationship. I am more than that relationship. I will continue to be special, unique, and irreplaceable regardless of that outcome.
Be aware that you want to keep such thoughts in balance so that you do not degenerate into narcissism. The point of growing in the knowledge of inherent worth is not to puff yourself up relative to others. In fact, a clear understanding of inherent worth should be a guard against narcissism. Why? It is because the idea of inherent worth levels the playing field of life. If we all have inherent worth, then all of us have value, even if some make more money or have more talent or whatever separates us. We are united in this: We all are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
“We all are special, unique, and irreplaceable.”Robert Enright
As one more caution, avoid using the thought of inherent worth to perpetuate nonsense. For example, suppose you have a gambling habit that seriously depletes the family’s funds. You do not then want to proclaim your inherent worth to yourself so that you can continue the nonsense. Yes, we all may have inherent worth, but we all are imperfect and need to work on our character flaws as we retain that sense of worth.
We are more than our actions. We are more than others’ rejection of us. We possess a worth that is unconditional. No one can take that away from us, even those who walk away from a relationship that could have been great for both of you. Hold out the hope that the next person also sees inherent worth in those with whom there is a committed relationship. One of the best ways to have a stable ongoing relationship, it seems to me, is to find a like-minded person who understands the importance of inherent worth and sees this very clearly in the self and in you.
This blog was originally posted on the Psychology Today website on Nov. 8, 2018.