Have you done something for which you can’t figure how to forgive yourself? Every time you see the person you wronged, or are in a certain situation that reminds you, it all comes down on you all over again?
You are not alone. Forgiving is hard enough, but it can be even harder when you’re trying to forgive yourself. We are often our own worst critics, and that only amplifies the problem for most of us. Yet the power of forgiveness is undeniable.
Here are 8 tips that can help you learn how to forgive yourself, and then actually do it. These aren’t in any particular order, and are not comprehensive – they’re only tips that might help you make your way down the road to forgiving yourself.
8 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward
- Apologize and ask forgiveness
- Write down the lesson learned
- Admit you are not perfect
- Stop playing the video
- Receive the same grace you would extend to others
- Put down a physical marker
- Resolve to do better
- Trust the original forgiver
Apologize and Ask Forgiveness
Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best answer. Have you asked forgiveness from the person you wronged? If not, do it now! You might be surprised to find out that they’re thinking about it way less than you are, and have possibly even already forgiven you. That would be best case scenario, so don’t pass it up!
But even if they’re still as mad as you thought they might be, to apologize and ask their forgiveness is the most important step toward forgiving yourself anyway.
Write Down the Lesson Learned
Life is a series of mistakes. In fact, economic adviser Dave Ramsey says, “The shiny mountain of success is actually a pile of your mistakes that you are standing on instead of lying under.” Of course, he’s talking about business decisions, but that principle can be applied to our relationships as well.
If you’ve made a mistake and can’t seem to forgive yourself, get out some paper and a pen or pencil and write down what you learned, old-school style! It helps to get it out and put it down in such a physical fashion; and if you keep it where you can see it, it might serve to prevent you from revisiting that guilt in the future. It can also possibly prevent you from making the same mistake again.
Admit You are Not Perfect
To be honest, none of us is perfect, and that includes you (and me)! Did you make a mistake? Yes. Did anyone else you know of ever make a mistake? Yes. Do you think somebody else might have even screwed up worse than you did? Definitely.
So guess what, we’re all in the same boat. Once you realize that, and realize that you are truly no worse than the rest of humanity (and more than likely, you’re in the top 50 percent, at least!), you will be better equipped to experience some forgiveness from yourself.
Don’t get me wrong – just because “everybody else does it too” is no excuse for hurting someone or making a bad decision. However, it might help us let go of some of the undue pressure or guilt we might be piling on ourselves, especially if we’ve already received forgiveness from the victim of our dumbness!
Stop Playing the Video
Do you keep replaying the event or the deed over and over in your head? That’s not completely unnatural, but there’s a point where you have to stop playing it, and move forward. Have you asked forgiveness? If not, do that first. Is there anything more you can do to help the situation? If so, do that too. But if you’ve done all that, and still the video plays over and over, hit stop! Find another video to play.
Receive the Same Grace You Would Extend to Others
If someone did the same to you, would you forgive them? Would you possibly give them a break, because you know nobody is perfect, and you care too much about them to hold something like that against them? Then maybe you need to turn that grace around and extend it to yourself. Realize that you’re not special – at least, not in the sense that you require more forgiveness than others. If it’s possible to extend grace to others, extend it to yourself too!
Put Down a Physical Marker
Sometimes it can help to mark the official end of your unforgiveness with something physical: write yourself a letter, go on a hike & allow yourself to process it all one more time, or create something like a simple sculpture or a pile of rocks to mark the end of it. Make a decision that it’s over, mark it physically, and agree that it’s now over and you are officially letting it go.
Resolve to Do Better
If we learn from our mistakes we’re making progress, so don’t let your mistakes be in vain. Resolve that the next time you are in a similar position, you will do better. Practice it in your mind, go over what you will say or do next time instead of going over what you should have said or done last time. Make a positive plan for the future, and let the past be the past.
Trust the Original Forgiver
The God who created all of us is the original Forgiver, and if we can trust his forgiveness, we can absolutely forgive ourselves, once and for all. If we can see ourselves the way he sees us, our world becomes radically different.
If you haven’t trusted God to forgive you, watch the video on this page and see how you can do that – then realize that if he forgives you, you’re forgiven! As believers in him, we are seen by God as spotless and perfect, which is the greatest of all great news.
Since we aren’t perfect, we still have to navigate the consequences; but the underlying truth is that once we’ve trusted God to forgive us, we have been completely and unequivocally forgiven. Others may or may not forgive us, because they don’t necessarily see us the way God sees us. But his opinion is the opinion that matters.
Another great little tidbit: he doesn’t expect us to fix everything, because that’s his job! We can only do what we can do, but then we can trust him to take it from there.
Once you’ve trusted God to forgive you in the first place, you can rest assured that he does not condemn you, and he has a great plan for the rest of your life that does not include guilt! He let his only son die in our place, not so we could feel guilty for all the stuff we screwed up on, but so we could be released from it and live an amazing life, both now and forever with him.