“To err is human, to forgive is divine,” coined by Alexander Pope in the early 18th century, motivates me to write this article on how to forgive yourself. (Luke5:21)
Self-forgiveness or forgiving others is always difficult. We often flaunt, “Oh! move ahead; it’s ok.” But point to rethink, do we mean it? No, it is not that easy. So it is rightly mentioned, “Who can forgive sins but God alone.“(Luke 5:21)
“To err” is not always a sin. It can be a mistake done without any bad intention or in the heat of the moment.
The gulf of emotions, the array of questions, am I wrong or correct, the continuous backlash by your conscience, and the moment you find it hard to come out from the long, sagging, self-destroying thoughts. Friends! It’s time to forgive yourself.
How to forgive yourself is a mental process and needs attention to maintain physical health. Though, at times, it is accessible to forgive others than oneself.
1. Importance of Self-Forgiveness
I am very sorry if you think unforgiving makes you acknowledge your mistakes more. Dr. John Delony, the mental health expert and the host of Dr. John Delony’s show, has said that unforgiving oneself never buys extra grace from the world but makes one more vulnerable and life hell at the hands of prolonged remorse.
Listed under is the significance of practicing self-forgiveness:-
1.1. Feel Humane to Practice Humanity
Humanity lies in not only being human to others but oneself too. Guilt and shame for a long time can harm your mental health. You may start undermining your self-esteem. This, in the long run, can take you far from humanity.
Self-forgiveness is essential to overcome guilt and accept whatever happened was a learning experience. Also, learning from mistakes and forgiving yourself are equally important. So take that it is okay to make mistakes.
1.2. Embrace the Present and Shun Your Past Away
Start living in the present. Past trauma or mistakes in life is always an experience to learn from rather than experience guilt forever.
1.3. Helps to Stay Positive for the Future
Forgiving yourself will boost your self-confidence for the future. It is not only taking responsibility for wrongs but building one’s trust in one’s values.
2. How to Forgive Yourself: 12 Steps to Achieve That
Hey friend, are you carrying guilt baggage and torn between your mind and heart? Then I promise today will surely be your last day of the turmoil.
It is better to keep a pen and paper handy before you read any further. So clear your mind and follow the steps to how to forgive yourself.
So, here are the well-researched steps on how to forgive yourself:-
2.1. Vouch for Your Emotions
Working through the day, meeting new and old associates, mending old issues, and making new commitments all lead us to physical and emotional challenges. These challenges may lead you to hurt yourself or someone else.
During the day, you may start questioning your values and regret any wrong done or said.
So, begin by clearing your head of petty day-to-day issues.
2.2. Follow the Flow of Feelings
In decluttering, your first impulse may strike your guilty feelings to a particular unforgivable incidence. Here you may feel shame and guilt and feel it to be the worst thing done or happened by or to you in your entire life.
You may realize that you made it a big deal in the course because of your overthinking. At this point, you may burden yourself with many other mistakes or bad experiences, along with the particular incidence weighing you down. Here make a point to take the weeds out.
In a way, it may help you establish that this problem will soon vanish like other issues.
Soon you will understand what is weighing you down.
2.3. Sieve Negative Emotions and Pen them Loud
The course of the feelings will take you to the particular point that hurts you the most, and you are ashamed of. In the process of self-forgiveness, you may feel inadequate and consider yourself a bad person. But here, I want you to pen down the hurts.
John Delony, a mental health expert, says, “You could write down, for instance, I am a liar, I am not trustworthy.” Side by side, check them if you are a liar or untrustworthy.
It is better to make a list of all lies and all untrustworthy things said or done by you.
Note- ( Diary writing and writing a letter seeking forgiveness is another way to speak your heart out. Here is a link to a printable write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.)
2.4. Analyze the Validity of Each of Your Negative Emotions
In the next step of how to forgive yourself, check all the points written above and check if they are worthy of prolonged hurt and shame.
Imagine if someone else makes mistakes similar to yours, is it that big to punish oneself for so long? If you are clinging to a lie or any of the bad acts done years ago, according to John Delony, you are a trustworthy person who got caught up in the situation and worthy enough for forgiveness.
Your empathy will surely start forgiving and help you rise a little from the pool of shame and guilt.
2.5. Take Responsibility for Past Mistakes
Sometimes, you may take up the responsibility for your mistake and get ready to seek forgiveness. But others might not be ready to forgive you. Thus, you cannot erase what you did from your mind. John Delony suggests that it is okay as others may take their time to forgive you, which is their right.
He further suggests that although one has the narrative and words of the mistakes in mind and feels guilty, they should stop torturing themselves. The genuine self-forgiveness begins when you stop hurting yourself.
So, it’s better to take responsibility for the misdeed done wholeheartedly.
2.6. Learn from Your Mistakes
After taking responsibility for your mistakes and accepting the results, John Delony says, “You are now supposed to divorce your identity from the consequence.”
In other words, break away from the punishment you already had and begin detaching yourself from the remorse of what you have been through. If you feel guilt and keep cringing at what happened, you are far from self-forgiveness.
True self-forgiveness lies in accepting and realizing the wrong done and topping it with compassion and love for yourself.
2.7. Reject any Negative Feelings about Yourself
Imagine a generous world; won’t earth be heaven, then? Accept the fact that God made man learn and experience things around him.
Since you have learned from your mistakes and wish to be a changed person, you should revamp your values in the process. Once out of guilt and shame, you will find yourself on a springboard and jump to a new you in a fraction of a second.
Acknowledge you need compassion to give it back.
2.8. Promise Yourself to Stay Vigilant
You may have spent days full of regret and remorse. You may have cursed yourself to hell, but this form of prolonged hurt can turn helpful in revamping you.
For example, A friend of yours called you up for a piece of advice. Since you were busy, you advised something that turned hell for him. This not only could affect your associations, but you would sulk into a sense of deep regret for years. But in a way, it helps to develop an understanding of empathy in the long run.
Remember forgiving yourself is an essential step in moving forward. But don’t forget to learn from your past mistakes.
Unrecognizing any sinful act could leave you hurting others and yourself in the long run.
2.9. Make Peace with Yourself and Your Comrades
Relationships are the backbone of our healthy life. Until and unless you are at peace with yourself, you cannot return positive vibes to people around you. Your self-worth diminishes if you lack empathy.
2.10. Start Loving Yourself
You have cleaned your consciousness through the process. Now is the time to come out of complex emotions and start loving yourself.
Love is what humans are made for. Loving and understanding your emotions are prerequisites to loving others.
2.11. Start Healthy Talks with All Around You
Healing is not only making amends for your past mistake but also breaking any bad habits. It is your responsibility to choose your correct words.
For example, you ended up spoiling relations with one of your friends. Now, after the process of how to forgive yourself, try making amends with the people who are common in your group. Your positive attitude and regretful behavior will surely strike the person you argued with.
2.12. Plan for Your Future Actions
Recognize your mental strengths and positive feelings you share with your friends, family, or workplace. This changed persona of yours will help change your first response to any undesirable events you may encounter in the future. Trust your values and start afresh.
Surround yourself with thoughts to never hurt anyone, and don’t fail to include yourself in this broad category of anyone.
The above 12 steps take time, and you may wish to quit halfway. I advise you to go through them again and benefit yourself with the steps of how to forgive yourself.
I hope the above healing steps take off the baggage of past mistakes. Think of the bad as the chapter of the book read and closed, and flip on to the following pages of your life. The above forgiveness process will help you move forward and repair the damage.
3. The 4 Rs of How to Forgive Yourself
The 4 Rs are another way to deal with your situation. If you are one of those who get frequently indulge in self-remorse, these 4Rs are the easier way to handle the situation in a short time. Below are the 4 Rs and what to follow under each R.
Take responsibility for what wrong you have done.
You may feel a burst of negative emotions after taking responsibility for the wrong done by you. But these feelings will help you change in the future.
Make amends and rectify your mistakes.
In this stage of how to forgive yourself, try to develop new thoughts about yourself and weave positivity after rising from the self-hatred.
4. Benefits of Self-Forgiveness
The process of genuine self-forgiveness may turn your life upside down and vouches for a changed form of self, free of guilt and shame. In other words, self-forgiveness is helpful to your mind and body, and no doubt nourishes you.
Listed below are the benefits of self-forgiveness:-
4.1. Improved Mental Health
Self-forgiveness, or the act of accepting that you wronged someone else, develops a sense of responsibility. It also eases you of many bad consciences that you may have been unaware of since birth, along with the recent guilt or shame.
True self-forgiveness reduces anxiety and stress levels. It helps one to reconcile with the self after prolonged trauma. A paper in the Journal of Positive Psychology from the six researchers based on evidence from correlational and experimental research states about self-forgiveness and its positive impact on mental health.
The result revealed that self-condemnation and remorse levels declined when they researched some people going through difficult emotions with increased self-forgiving beliefs.
4.2. Positive Effects on Physical Health
Self-forgiveness is a process of loving yourself back. Love in itself has immense benefits on the physical health of the person. Loving oneself or others is the natural pain controller, lowers blood pressure, heals faster, gives fewer colds, and gives a longer & happier life with fewer visits to physicians.
The above is evident from the paper in the Journal of Counseling Psychology. It states that forgiving self and physical health correlate. Overall the relationship between the two is positive, keeping aside the racial and age limitations.
4.3. Develops Healthy Relationships
Self-forgiveness reduces the chances of repetition of a similar mistake. Moreover, complex emotions in relationships take a healthy breath of life if one forgives oneself and raises the hope to embark the relations to new heights.
As you demean yourself for the bad done once and don’t forgive yourself, you may create a scuffle around you. For example, you rebuked someone badly for a petty workplace issue and continued feeling guilty for weeks. This may indeed disturb you both at your work front and your relations with friends and families.
But once you genuinely forgive yourself, you become soft-hearted, compassionate, and have a love for others and yourself. And I bet the beautiful relationships around you will benefit you. So, follow how to forgive yourself steps in the correct order and save your relationships.
4.4. Makes You Self-Compassionate
Self-compassionate means treating yourself with the same love and kindness as you treat others. Self-forgiveness makes one more human as the inner critic has done enough to analyze and synthesize what righteous behavior is.
Self-compassionate person respects the feelings of all.
5. Limitations of Self-Forgiveness
Though self-forgiveness is a positive trait, still if practiced regularly (“simply means you are regular in making blunders“) could lead to the below-mentioned drawbacks:-
5.1. Self-Forgiveness may Lead You to be Self-Centered
Self-forgiveness may help you overcome guilt, and you may become overprotective of your forgiveness. This may lead to a lack of empathy for others shortly.
You may try to move into your shell once the entire process is achieved and may start consoling yourself for any ill deeds.
5.2. Difficulty Identifying with Others
Self-forgiveness may lead you over-acknowledging yourself as the priority, which may become habitual. One may become so indulged in self-thoughts that it becomes difficult to identify the problems of others and even their perspective.
Sometimes narcissistic people are overtly possessive of themselves and never understand that their behavior may make others feel bad.
5.3. Fear of Making New Relations
Self-forgiveness may generate a fear of making new associations if you have accepted your mistake within yourself and have risen out of guilt and shame. But you fear talking loud about the wrongdoing, even with the closest of your pals. Generally, it is good to take help as it makes you bold enough to confront the sin you did rather than keep it within yourself. It is better to come out and face the world than to rest in your shell.
5.4. Self-Compassion may Turn into Self-Pity
In the process of how to forgive yourself, self-compassion, to an extent, protects you against low self-esteem. But it could also weaken your confidence to take challenges and risks.
So, it’s better to stay cautious of your deeds. Else, excess compassion may turn into pitying yourself.
5.5. Self-Judgment may Turn into Over-Identification
Judging every aspect and identifying with each is quite impossible too. Sometimes, it is not your fault, but circumstances and the surroundings explicitly force you to be harsh on yourself, and maybe you excessively hurt yourself in return. So over-identification can lead to over-blaming. It is better to release things in the span of our lives.
6. Peer-Reviewed Studies
Many studies and research are conducted from time to time to examine the effects of self-forgiveness on humans, the role of locomotion on self-forgiveness, etc. Here is a broad overview of a few peer review studies conducted on the various domains and their effects on self-forgiveness.
- High locomotors are found to be less nostalgic. Therefore, they find it easier to self-forgive themselves.
- Low locomotive people are high assessors due to their predominant habit of assessing and self-appraisal. They are more nostalgic and have the habit of comparing their past with the present and thereby experience more shame, guilt, and regret.
- How to forgive yourself has a divine connection too. It was found in the research that those who practice high-level religious practices or are strongly spiritually inclined are more likely to have a self-forgiving attitude. This further promotes their ability to have easier social integration and suffer less loneliness than those less spiritually inclined.
- As a result of self-forgiveness, they have improved psychological levels and reduced stress who believe in divine forgiveness.
- In another study, it is found that self-regulatory strength has a significant role in how to forgive yourself. Those who have self-regulatory power are easier to accommodate with the self-forgiveness process. On the other hand, if you have low self-regulatory strength, you are less likely to adapt positively to the how to forgive yourself approach.
The above peer-reviewed studies show that spirituality, self-regulation, and locomotion are positively linked to self-forgiveness.
Self-criticism and self-condemnation are necessary to an extent as it helps to analyze your past mistakes and makes you a good person. However, self-compassion elevates your faith in yourself and makes you a better person.
Although, one should avoid hurting others as it may result in hurting oneself. Confessing your mistakes and seeking forgiveness are part and parcel of the growth we humans are meant for.
I would conclude with a few lines on self-forgiveness penned by me,
“Alas! What have I done?
Feel guilty: I hurt someone.
Others may forget, what I say,
But now, how to forgive myself, I pray.
Then wisdom dawned,
For now, I feel grace.
Never iterate what I did or said at the back,
For Never iterate what I did or said at the back.
Always recite to get me back,
Always recite to get self back.”
In this vast journey of life, we often get hurt and feel the need for healing. Please follow the link: 88 Spiritual Healing Quotes Based on mindfulness, love, faith, and recreation for continuous recovery and self-learning.
I hope the above how to forgive yourself process helps make you a better person with more clarity about your values, improves your mental health, and, most importantly, benefits you move forward.