I was visiting with a friend earlier this year. We were having a conversation on spirituality and got on the subject of forgiveness. I told her of some issues that I was dealing with and she made the comment that I needed to be forgiving.
I thought, "She's right. I have all of these feelings associated with this event and I need to forgive this person and release them". But, before I could verbalize any of this to her, she said, "You need to forgive yourself".
I was taken aback and kind of confused for a moment because I had never thought that I was holding any self-resentment in relation to that particular event. When I dug a little deeper, I realized she was absolutely right.
As we journey through life, we are bound to have experiences that we're proud of. And equally, we're certain to have experiences that we're not too pleased with. Situations in which we may not have used our best judgment can sometimes nag at us over the years. We all mess up sometimes. So why is learning to forgive ourselves a lot harder than forgiving others? The reason is simple. No one can beat us up better than we beat ourselves up.
Have you cheated on your spouse? Chosen the wrong spouse? Hit a child in anger? Stolen something? Fallen off the wagon? Mistreated someone or spread a malicious rumor? If someone else did these things, you might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. That's because it's easier to forgive others. After all, they don't live in our heads, nagging us about our shortcomings.
Often, we want to feel pain and resentment, as resentment is a way of placing a barrier around ourselves to protect us from hurting others or allowing ourselves to get hurt again. And, forgiveness can be such a vague act; intangible in nature.
But, there definitely is power in having mercy. All the world's major religions address it. A chronic state of anger and resentment interferes with our quality of life and studies show stress and anger can cause or worsen diseases.
If you're holding yourself hostage about something you've done in the past, here are some things to consider as you take steps to self-forgiveness:
* Accept yourself as a human who has faults and makes mistakes. Let go of self-anger concerning past failures and mistakes.
* Eliminate irrational thinking that prevents self-forgiveness, such as:
...I've hurt myself a lot; how can I forgive myself for that?
...No one deserved to be treated the way I treated them and I don't deserve forgiveness.
...Thinking about what I did literally makes me sick: how do I forgive myself?
* You have to let go of past hurts, trust in your goodness, and trust in the goodness of your Higher Power to relieve you from your burdens.
* Speak aloud that you forgive yourself of the past event, acknowledge that you're human and prone to making mistakes, and do not need to be perfect (no one is).
If we begin to view events in which we wrong others or ourselves as "assignments" placed on our life charts to further develop our souls, then self-forgiveness will become much easier. Forgiving yourself is not forgetting the mistake, but forgiveness means not allowing the memory of the act to cause discomfort.
Once you truly have released yourself from the painful feelings associated with the event, you should reach a turning point. At that moment you'll feel less burdened and have more energy.
We all screw up sometimes (and will continue to do so). I can't count the number of times I've made awful mistakes and bad decisions. But fortunately (for all of us), self-forgiveness is a way to start anew.