We’ve all have been wronged by someone. Isn’t it? That person can be a friend, co-worker, or family member. While it is hard to forgive those who knowingly harm us, it is almost impossible for us to forgive ourselves. In this article, we will open up the conversation about forgiveness, especially about forgiving ourselves. Here is what we will cover:
- R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness
- What is self-forgiveness?
- The 4 Rs of Forgiveness
- Consequences of unforgiveness
- Power of forgiveness
- Why is forgiveness important?
- Books on forgiveness
Interestingly enough, we are able to forgive (or rather forget) people who are not close to us. But we are harder on ourselves and the people we love. We are less forgiving and hold grudges much longer when people close to us hurt us inadvertently.
We know what you are thinking. It's easier said than done. Who wants to be divine when the pain of deception is unbearable? Many times, the trauma is so deep that it affects almost every aspect of our lives.
We all have certain things that we categorize as unforgivable (like the three unforgivable curses in Harry Potter). Especially those wounds that happened to us as children continued over the years and what clearly cannot be categorized as a mistake. As an adult, when someone dearly breaks our trust, it leaves a lasting impression on us, and getting over it can be heart-wrenching.
But a person who’s been grievously hurt and faced anguish knows that the longer we hold on to our wounds, the more it breaks you. The best medicine to recover from this damage is ironically, ‘forgiveness.’ And there is a very practical reason for that. What happened to you was not in your control. It was an outside circumstance. Only way you can take back the power is through forgiveness. Because while what happened may not be in your control, forgiveness is in your control.
R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the decision to let go of the angst and resentment and to set free the person who hurt you deeply. Here is a video by R.T. Kendall better understand the art of forgiving. It explains how total forgiveness can build inner peace and eventually, help us reconnect with ourselves.
In the video below, RT Kendell talks about Total Forgiveness. Even if you are not religious, take a moment to listen to him.
This approach of radical and total forgiveness can heal wounds that have been open for years and help us see a way past the events that are holding us back.
What is Self-Forgiveness?
It is almost harder to forgive ourselves because technically, we did have control over the situation we regret and we did not live up to ourselves. When we do something that is unforgivable in our own eyes, it leads to a much larger discord. Guilt can overshadow everything. It can lead to a feeling of never being good enough that often lasts for a lifetime. Self-forgiveness is forgiving yourself simply because you are human and because no matter who you are and what you have done, you deserve it. When the person harming you the most is your own inner voice, it is time to be kind to yourself and simply, forgive.
The fact that you are feeling the guilt and the pain means that you truly regret your actions. You know you did something wrong. But beating yourself up for that will not help anyone. It will only make matters worse. Your inner voice will become cynical and self-critical, which will lead to a greater possibility of making the same mistake again.
When you criticize yourself over and over again, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you continue to break your own trust. The vicious cycle continues and our bond with ourselves gets weaker.
The 4 Rs of Forgiveness
Even if you are ready to forgive yourself, there is the question of how. Know that forgiveness is not a one-time thing. It is a decision you make every day to let go of the past and focus on the future. It is something you work on overtime and then maybe someday that bond of trust is renewed. While different approaches to forgiveness work for different people, the Four R’s of forgiveness are a good place to start.
The 4 Rs of Forgiveness are Responsibility, Remorse, Restoration, Renewal.
The first step is to take responsibility for what happened. Let go of all excuses (“it happened out of anger,” “if he/she did it why can’t I?” “It is just a reaction to his/her actions, not my fault”). Learn to be okay with the fact that you made a mistake. Try not to justify it, even if it is justified. Just accept it unconditionally.
Next, is to truly feel the remorse. Feel what someone else felt when you wronged them, the pain and the hurt you caused. Only when you feel the remorse in this way, with empathy, can you really begin the process of healing. Show compassion to yourself, be gentle and kind as you go through the 4Rs of forgiveness.
Your actions hurt people and caused damage. While it may not be possible to fix everything, go out of your way to fix what broke as a result. Make a genuine effort to set things straight.
Turn your mistakes into opportunities of growth and learning. What did you learn from the experience? How can you make sure that you never repeat it again? What steps can you take today?
Letting go of the past is by far the hardest thing we can do, but it is also crucial. A recent 2021 research study reveals that self-forgiveness enables us to be more confident, makes us more positive, and lowers the likelihood of depression.
Unforgiveness is the inability to discharge the pain of betrayal leading to hate, and sometimes, debilitating life situations. According to a 2016 research article, unforgiveness can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and premature aging.
There are things in our pasts that seem unfathomable to forgive. Certain behaviors leave a deep scar on us and we carry those through our lives. So much so that these scars sometimes become a part of our identity and our moods turn into personality traits and attitudes over time. Changing that aspect of our lives sometimes means changing who we are fundamentally. In situations like these, it is important to get professional help. Take the time to heal yourself. It may be the most important thing you do for yourself in your lifetime.