Download (direct link):
One of the myths associated with self-forgiveness is that we can only forgive ourselves after those we have harmed have forgiven us. That is not the case. Self-forgiveness is the peace we make with ourselves and with God, however we understand God. It is not the peace we make with others. It does not depend, therefore, on anyone else. Through our amends we have already made peace with the other parties to our regret. It doesn’t matter whether they have made peace with us. It does not matter whether they have forgiven us. We do not need their permission or approval to forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is our gift, one we make to ourselves. We don’t need anyone else’s permission to make that gift.
In the final analysis, self-forgiveness is an act of compassion, an acknowledgment of our imperfections, and an expression of our humility. It is giving ourselves permission to be who we were—and who we are.
The Benefits of Forgiving Ourselves
Just as we reap benefits from forgiving others, we reap benefits from forgiving ourselves. These benefits are the primary reasons we forgive. They are the fruits of having let go of our regrets, the gifts we receive for the progress we have made, the fear we have overcome, and the courage we have shown. They are well deserved.
Self-forgiveness is warranted on the basis of three sets of principles: intellectual, psychological, and spiritual. Intellectually, self-forgiveness is the most rational and practical policy we can pursue if we wish to lead a happy and productive life. Psychologically, it frees us from the bonds of selfloathing that cripple our relationships with ourselves and others, impairing our ability to fulfill our potential. Spiritually, self-forgiveness is an act
of love and an example of grace that spreads throughout our relationships and activities, bringing multiple gifts to us and to others.
We forgive ourselves for many reasons, some of which include the following:
Self-Forgiveness Is an Act of Love and Compassion
Withholding forgiveness is an act of hate. Forgiving is an act of love. If we refuse to forgive ourselves, that refusal is an expression of self-hatred. Hatred is no basis for the relationship we have with ourselves, which is as real as any relationship we have with another human being. Because we are always with ourselves, the self-forgiveness we withhold is even more destructive than the forgiveness we withhold from others. As an act of compassion and expression of love toward ourselves, self-forgiveness benefits us profoundly. It frees us from the internal hostilities that regrets impose. It also brings us an extraordinary gift: the joy of loving and of being loved, perhaps the most healing of all human experiences.
Self-Forgiveness Allows Us to Live in the Present
With each regret, we return to the past and to the events that made us unhappy there. We re-create the misery ofyesterday and bring it into our present lives to poison them. Every moment we spend in our regrets deprives us of a moment in the present that we might otherwise have enjoyed. Selfforgiveness returns us to the present where we belong, where we were meant to live, and where the pleasures of life can be experienced.
Self-Forgiveness Frees Us of the Shame and Guilt of Our Regrets
For those regrets about which we feel guilt or shame, self-forgiveness is wonderfully freeing. It allows us to shed the painful past. Regardless of how well publicized our regret has been, we no longer have to fear what people will think of us or to shrink from them in spasms of guilt or shame. We have made our amends. We are right with ourselves, with our higher power, and with the world. The harsh judgments of others are no longer of
STEP NINE: FORGIVING OURSELVES 173
consequence. Their thoughts are theirs to handle and resolve. Forgiveness frees us from whatever we have done in the past to do whatever we need to do in the present to enjoy our lives and make them meaningful and successful.
Self-Forgiveness Makes Possible a Deep Sense of Peace and Even Happiness
Peace, serenity, and enduring happiness elude us as long as we are punishing ourselves with regrets. When we live in self-blame and self-directed anger, we cannot be at peace with ourselves, which means that we cannot be happy. Self-forgiveness brings an end to the self-punishment of regretting and to the turmoil it causes, ushering in a new era of self-acceptance, self-respect, and expanded opportunities. Once we have forgiven ourselves, we are free to enjoy ourselves, to experience our own unique expression of life with all its hopes and possibilities.
Self-Forgiveness Makes It More Likely That We Will Continue to Forgive Others
When we have not forgiven ourselves, it is more difficult to forgive others in the daily conduct of our lives. Forgiving ourselves provides practice in the art of forgiving other people. The better we are at self-forgiveness, the better we will understand the process of forgiving others and the rewards it brings. Likewise, the more practiced we are at forgiving others, the easier it will be to forgive ourselves when new reasons arise to do so, as they inevitably will.