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Forgiveness is one of the most powerful gifts we can give. We know the benefits of forgiving someone. We are aware that it is necessary to let go of our anger and hurt in order to move on. Saying, “I forgive you” is like lifting a heavy weight from someone’s shoulders. Knowing this, why does it seem easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves?
Self-forgiveness is a process. It is unique in that it is something only you can do, but that also makes it more challenging. We are often our own harshest critics; it can be difficult to look at those times when we have disappointed ourselves or caused ourselves pain. It may not be pleasant, but we have to allow ourselves to feel that pain, feel that disappointment, anger, sadness – any emotion that may surface as we begin to visualize the grudges we hold against ourselves.
As you focus, consider your state of mind at that time. Were you acting out of rage or fear? Were you under the influence of something or someone? We have all made excuses for our behavior, such as, “I was so angry I wasn’t thinking” or “I had too much to drink, I didn’t mean for it to happen.” Understanding your inward and outward circumstances during that time should not be used to excuse what you have done, but rather as a lesson for you to learn from. Bring your focus back to your feelings surrounding the experience and prepare to let go of them.
Why do we forgive other people? Is it because we love them enough to forgive them? Is it because we have enough faith in them to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them? Is it because forgiving someone will free us from the burden of resentment and allow us to focus on our future? All of these reasons can motivate us to forgive others. Consider these points; are they not just as true of ourselves? Show yourself the same level of compassion and understanding as you would show someone you love.
To be hurt by the person you love is one of the most emotionally painful events that can be experienced. When we are the cause our own pain, it is especially damaging because we feel as if we have betrayed ourselves. Self-protection is a critical survival skill. We have to forgive the betrayal in order to rebuild the trust. We need to trust ourselves; we cannot afford to let anger prevent that. Let go of the anger and forgive yourself; allow yourself to move on.
We cannot change our past, but we can give our self-inflected wounds a chance to heal. By giving ourselves the gift of forgiveness, comfort will replace our hurt, assurance will replace our self-doubt, and pride will replace our shame. Our self-awareness will intensify, our strength will rise, and our confidence will soar. It will be as if we discovered a key and unlocked something inside of us, giving us the freedom to be truly happy with ourselves – and we will know that we deserve it.