5 Tips for Self-Forgiveness
Lately, I have found myself ruminating on the concept of forgiveness. What it means to forgive, how to forgive well, and most pointedly how to forgive ourselves. For this blog I want to focus on self-forgiveness and how the process of forgiving ourselves is one of the most powerful habits we can incorporate into our day.
Growing up in the church I have heard countless verses on forgiveness and the power behind the practice. However, I wanted to find out the roots behind the word itself. After searching into the etymology, I found it comes from Germanic roots and the late old English meaning translates to, "to give up desire or power to punish.”
To give up desire or power to punish. When we forgive, we are literally giving up the power to punish. Wiping the slate clean. What a beautiful, restorative sentiment. Why then does it feel so difficult to forgive ourselves? Situations in the past nag in the back of our minds reminding us of times we have missed the mark, caused others pain, or failed. Feelings like anger, shame, and frustration build continuously behind the scenes when they are not dealt with. These feelings cause our nervous system to operate on high alert, which leads to anxiety and depression. And beating ourself up about situations in the past only perpetuates this vicious negative cycle. It is through addressing the issues head on and forgiving ourselves that we can find healing and freedom from these destructive thought patterns. As I have been thinking on this concept of self-forgiveness, I wanted to come up with a system to assist in my own healing. I thought it would be helpful to share my 5 tips on how to practice self-forgiveness.
1. Look at Your Feelings
It is difficult to genuinely forgive a situation that we refuse to look at. Take some time to dive in and see how you feel about a memory. Let there be no judgment or frustration as you do this. Look at yourself with eyes of grace and love. Let yourself experience each emotion as it bubbles to the surface. If you are struggling with letting yourself feel without judgment, pretend a loved one is going through the situation you are in. How would you treat their heart in this scenario? Treat yourself like someone you love.
2. Write to Release
After you have looked at your feelings and thoroughly experienced them grab a pen and paper and list out the emotions that seemed to really hit home. Let your thoughts flow and work through areas of tension or resistance. Again, give yourself lots of grace and love during this process as some intense realizations or emotions may come up.
3. Take Responsibility
Do not continuously bring up negative memories as a way of punishment for how you acted in the past. In doing this you are only reinforcing the negative over a situation that cannot be changed. Instead, look at what happened, identify how you messed up, and take responsibility.
4. Ask for Forgiveness
When we hurt someone else, it is important, and obvious, that we should ask them for forgiveness. However, we often forget to ask ourselves for forgiveness and in doing so the areas of hurt remain open and vulnerable. We need to ask for forgiveness and give that forgiveness in order to fully find healing.
5. Gently Move On
There is not an exact “works every time” solution for self-forgiveness. Sometimes things seem to heal easily while other times things continue to fester in the back of our minds. Each time a negative emotion comes up, remind yourself that you are forgiven. If a memory has been simmering for a long time it is safe to say a lot of encouragement will be needed to move past it. Coming up with a phrase you can say to yourself each time a specific memory or emotion pops up can be a helpful tool in moving past the hurt.
I have been noticing improvements in my thought life and overall mental state since I began actively putting these five tips into practice. I hope they can also help you on your path of self-forgiveness and healing.