Forgiving yourself might be the hardest thing you will ever do. We accept forgiveness from God and friends much more easily than from ourselves.
In my last article I wrote about why you ought to forgive yourself. To enjoy life you must find a way to look in the mirror and say, “I forgive you.” If you missed the reasons why it’s so important, you can take a look at them HERE.
No one is harder on you than you. This is why is it so difficult to find self-forgiveness. Remind yourself everyone makes major mistakes. You are no exception. You may not be proud of some things in your past but those blemishes serve as reminders you are part of the human race. Cut yourself some slack. Stop beating yourself up over the past.
The difficult part of forgiving yourself is knowing how to do it. It’s as though there are pro secrets not available to the masses. But I’ve discovered these secrets are revealed if you think of the analogy of going on a journey.
Here’s my suggested plan for taking the journey of forgiving yourself.
Orientate the Map
Forgiving yourself is not a way of dodging responsibility. It is not the same as excusing yourself from the guilt. You are not attempting to make excuses for bad behavior. It is the opposite. When you forgive yourself you are taking responsibility. The fact you seek forgiveness means acknowledging your role in the incident. This is where forgiving yourself begins.
Start the Engine
It’s important to understand forgiving yourself is a process, not an event. If you think you can pray the magic words and BOOM it’s a new day then please readjust your expectations. But there is good news. You can forgive yourself. It will take time and effort but you can know the joy of being free from the guilt of past mistakes and failures.
Head Out on the Highway
Identify and list the specific mistakes, failures, or sins which haunt you. Review the list and rank the items from the most painful to the least. Start at the top and work your way down. Take a sheet of paper and in one paragraph write out what happened. This may cause pain but it’s only temporary. In a single sentence record why this incident brings guilt. Think it through. Yes, you played a part in this event. You carry your share of blame. But now it’s time to let it go. In big letters write this on your paper, “I FORGIVE MYSELF.” Is it that simple? No. But this is where the rubber meets the road. To gain traction you need to say those words and embrace them.
Keep Gas in the Tank
It might be a long process. Do not get discouraged. Keep on the road to self-forgiveness. If you are like most people you’ve been beating yourself up for a long time. As you travel down the road I have three suggestion for keeping motivated.
First, as you work through each item on your list look for something good which happened due to your failure or mistake. Can you point to a positive result? At the least find a valuable lesson learned. Self-forgiveness is easier if you can point to one positive outcome.
Two, see if there is anything you can do to right the wrong. Do you need to call someone and ask them to forgive you? Do you need to repair a broken relationship? Do you need to pay back some money? As you journey down the road of self-forgiveness it puts gas in the tank if you can do anything to help right the wrong.
Three, find affirmation statements or a slogan to repeat as you head down the road. Consider writing in big letters, “I Forgive Myself” and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Repeat those words in moments of self-doubt. If you need additional ideas, Farnoosh Brock wrote a great piece entitled “The 25 Affirmations to Forgive Your Past and Free Your Mind.” These affirmations are a helpful source of statements you can use to put gas in your tank for the journey.
Forgiving yourself is tough but you can do it. I believe in you. It will take work but it is worth it.
Great post and particularly poignant for me. Everyone – from family and friend to my boss – tell me I’m too hard on myself. This is helpful. Thanks Randy.
Thanks for reading and sharing your comments. Most of us are way too hard on ourselves!
Yes … ” If you are like most people you’ve been beating yourself up for a long time.”
And, like you say, it’ll most likely be a long process back out. It’s difficult to change that process. Sometimes it seems easier to stay stuck in victim mode than to actually do something about it!
But it’s worth it.
The feeling of freedom that comes from the ability to move beyond unforgiveness provides a deep renewal; a new life. I’ve no other way to describe it. And it seems like that realization only comes to light on the other side of forgiveness.
Thank you Randy for the links and the roadmap. Will be taking a trip soon…
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Hi Garry. Thanks! I have discovered that there are two broken links of the Resource Sheet. I’m trying to get them repaired and will make sure those who got the sheet will get the update.