As difficult as it is to forgive someone who has hurt you, it is often more challenging to forgive yourself. When you have hurt someone you care about or you have done something that you deem unforgivable, how do you move forward? Fret not dear LifeHacks reader, we are here to help you through this process in these 10 simple steps.
1. Understand why forgiveness is important.
At some point, the steps toward forgiving yourself might seem too difficult and it might seem easier to live with the guilt you already feel. That is when you need to re-read this paragraph and remind yourself that scientific evidence shows that using forgiveness results in better overall health (1). Even if this is a pain you have held onto for years, the positive effects of forgiveness evident even in later years of life (2). So while it might seem like an insurmountable hurdle at first, it is important to know that self-forgiveness is actually good for your health and well-being.
2. Identify what needs to be forgiven.
Before you can forgive yourself you will need to be clear about what it is that you feel you have done wrong. You may be aware of a sense of guilt that you have but what exactly did you do that made you feel this way? While we often feel guilty about something we have done, we can also feel guilty about something that we have failed to do. So take a moment to define what it is that you have done or not done that needs forgiving.
3. Identify the reasons behind what you did/did not do.
Sometimes we deliberately hurt the people we love. But why? Were you acting from a place of jealousy or anger or hurt? One of the biggest obstacles in forgiveness is anger (3), so identifying what emotion you acted upon and dealing with this emotion is an important part of moving from guilt to self-forgiveness. Perhaps you were trying to help someone and in your own overzealous way you messed things up. Behind most of our actions there is an intention or an emotion and identifying the why behind your action is an important part of this process.
It is also possible that you feel guilty for doing the right thing. If you have a friend or family member that makes you feel guilty for taking care of yourself it is important to identify this and instead of trying to forgive yourself, allow yourself to do what is right for you.
If you have explored this option and you still feel that you need to ask for forgiveness, the next step is vital
4. Ask for forgiveness
Once you know what it is that needs forgiving and what lead you to this point, it is now time to take the hard step of asking for forgiveness. It is important to be sensitive to the needs of the person you might have hurt. Allow them to decide when and where is comfortable to meet. But also remember that your comfort is important. If your intentions are good it is okay to admit that meeting at a specific time or place may not be comfortable for you. Take the time to find a common time and place to ensure that you are both able to discuss the situation comfortably.
If all possibilities fail, you are welcome to opt for a letter. This will allow you to construct your wording in the most comfortable setting and also allow for the other party to read this at their leisure.
Basically, it is important for you to give yourself permission to empathize with yourself.
5. Commit to making a change or avoiding the same behavior in the future
The best way to ensure that you do not end up in this position again is to make sure that you have a plan for when you are in a similar situation in the future. If you have identified that you tend to act in this way when you are angry, take some time to deal with your anger issues.
If you have hurt someone out of frustration because they tend to hurt you often, perhaps the change you need to make is simply to no longer spend time with people who try to hurt you.
Whatever the reason is for your actions, it is important for you to commit to not being in this situation again.
6. Decide to forgive yourself
While forgiving yourself might seem like a stretch it is important to know that you deserve forgiveness. It is also important to recognize that deciding to forgive yourself and emotionally forgiving yourself are two different steps.
The first step is to decisively forgive yourself. Make a conscious decision that you are worthy of forgiveness and decide that, no matter what, you will forgive yourself.
7. Emotionally forgive yourself
If you are religious or spiritual you can tie your self-forgiveness into your belief (1). Think of the ways forgiveness is encouraged by your beliefs and relate this back to how you too deserve to be forgiven. This may be an important way to remind yourself of your divine deserving of forgiveness. You may have a ritual that will aid you in reaching a point of forgiveness. Do not be afraid to use confession, prayer, meditation, or any other ritual that will help you reach a place of inner peace and true emotional forgiveness.
8. Reduce rumination
This step links directly to step 7, as evidence suggests that you can only truly forget and stop thinking about a hurt caused if you have emotionally forgiven the offender (5). So if you find yourself thinking about the event over and over again, then you need to move back to step 1 and work your way towards self-forgiveness.
9. Replace guilt with self-love
Once you have worked your way through the emotional step of self-forgiveness it is time for you to replace your negative emotions with positive thoughts. This will allow you to move forward with a sense of self-confidence in your ability to make future decisions.
10. Repeat steps when required
Guilt may return if the person you have hurt has chosen not to forgive you, if they bring up the situation again, or if you have not truly forgiven yourself. In any of these cases, you simply need to start again from step 1 and continue. Remember, you deserve a happy life. So embrace self-forgiveness as a tool to ensure that you can move forward from this hurt.