Estrangement and reconciliation are two sides of the same coin – self-forgiveness.Bauer et al, 1992.
First, let’s discuss forgiveness in general. There are 3 aspects to forgiveness: forgiving others, receiving forgiveness from others and self-forgiveness.
There is a general tendency for us to be our hardest critics, e.g., beating ourselves up long after regrettable events, and even after others have forgiven us. This is when self-forgiveness must come into play.
Self-forgiveness is letting go of the feelings, thoughts and emotions associated with something you did, or think you did, wrong. It is the willingness to abandon self-resentment (for the wrongdoing) and substitute the self-resentment with self-compassion and love.
This does not mean you are weak or forgiven by whoever you may have hurt, or condoned the wrong deed. It means accepting and taking responsibility for the deed, expressing remorse in some way, making amends, and learning from that experience while willing to move forward because you can’t change the past.
Self-forgiveness leads to self-love. Self-love is loving ourselves when we make mistakes and when we succeed. It is embracing all parts of ourselves including those parts we don’t like. Self-love starts with self-forgiveness. Self-love is not to be confused with conceit – which is arrogance, an inflated ego, and a sense of superiority.
Steps to forgiveness (applicable to self and others).
Take responsibility – recognise what happened and how it impacted you and/or others. Taking responsibility means not making excuses or justifying your actions. It simply means, accepting that you did something that hurt someone else, or even yourself and acknowledging the impact it made on that someone or yourself.
Show remorse – it is normal to feel guilty when you’ve done something wrong. However, showing remorse means you are a good person who did something wrong. This realisation will cultivate a point to change behaviour in a positive way.
Restoration – this is the stage where you make amends for whatever you did. For some people, a simple apology leads to forgiveness, however, be mindful of how you phrase the apology. Some people offer conditional apologies, e.g., I’m sorry if blah blah blah. I believe an unconditional apology should state the reason one is apologising for, e.g., I’m sorry for blah blah blah and I ask for forgiveness, it won’t happen again. The latter acknowledges someone’s else emotions, and it’s beneficial to your self-esteem.
Renewal – learn from the experience and move on up with renewed focus. Understand why you did what you did, or behaved in the way you did, and how you can prevent it from happening again.
Remember, you did the best you could with what you knew and had at the time.
And more importantly, if you are looking to forgive yourself for something you did to someone else, seeking forgiveness from them first makes self-forgiveness more effective and genuine, and avoids the narcissistic loophole and self-indulgence. Because self-forgiveness is not an act in isolation from others or not affecting other people.
Research shows that self-forgiveness leads to fewer mental health problems, e.g., depression, anxiety, and stress. We can speculate this is because it lessens the need for rumination, reduces guilt and feelings of shame and improves connectedness with others.
In my therapeutic online course, I demonstrate, in greater detail, the techniques to practice self-forgiveness based on spiritual principles and evidence-based psychological research. Stay in the loop for the launch of this sensational course.
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