We hear a lot about the importance of forgiving those who have harmed us, but what about forgiving ourselves?
When we harm someone it is normal and healthy to feel bad about it, to experience regret and to wish we could take it back or do something to make the person feel better. What isn’t healthy is to continually beat ourselves up for our offense and to determine that we are a bad person because of it. The first experience is generally thought of as guilt while the second is considered to be shame. To learn more about how shame is the shadow side of the Solar Plexus Chakra, CLICK HERE.
Shame is responsible for a myriad of problems, including but not limited to:
- Self-criticism and self-blame
- Self-destructive behaviors (abusing your body with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, self-mutilation, etc)
- Self-sabotaging behavior (starting fights with loved ones, sabotaging jobs)
- The belief that you do not deserve good things
Self forgiveness is the most powerful step you can take to rid yourself of debilitating shame. Compassion is the antidote to shame. Self-compassion acts to neutralize the poison of shame and remove the toxins created by shame. Self-forgiveness is an important aspect of self-compassion. It acts to soothe our body, mind, and soul from the pain caused by shame, and it facilitates the overall healing process.
The Obstacles to Self-Forgiveness
One reason you may have difficulty forgiving yourself is that you may have a powerful need to “be good” and to be seen as “all good” in the eyes of others, as well as yourself. This need to be “all good” may have started because your parents or other caretakers had unreasonable expectations of you and may have severely punished or abandoned you when you made a mistake. Now you may find that you are equally critical of yourself and equally unforgiving.
How to Forgive Yourself for the Harm You Caused Others
Forgiving yourself for the ways you have hurt or harmed others will probably be the hardest thing that you will ever have to do in order to heal your shame. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you ever have to do in your life. This is especially true if you have repeated the cycle of abuse by harming another person in the same ways you were harmed.
The truth is, we have all harmed others. In fact, every single person on this planet has harmed at least one other person in ways that have shaped that person’s life. Knowing this and knowing that you are not alone, can help you to have compassion for yourself and to forgive yourself. Feeling compassion for yourself does not release you from taking responsibility for your actions. But it can release you from the self-hatred that prevents you from forgiving yourself and free you to respond to the situation with clarity. Rather than tormenting yourself with guilt and shame, having compassion for your own suffering and for the suffering of those you have harmed can help you achieve the clarity necessary for you to think of ways you can help those you have harmed.
When you examine your mistakes and failures it becomes clear that you did not consciously choose to make them and even in those rare cases when you did make a conscious choice, the motivation for your actions was colored by your past experiences. Because of the shame you have carried, you closed your heart to others and became blind to how your actions were harming others. In addition, outside circumstances also contributed to you forming your particular patterns.
When we begin to recognize that we are a product of countless factors, we don’t need to take our ‘personal failings’ so personally. When we acknowledge the intricate web of causes and conditions in which we are all embedded, we can be less judgmental of ourselves and others. A deep understanding of inter-connectedness allows us to have compassion for the fact that we’re doing the best we can given the hand life has dealt us.
Earning Your Forgiveness
If you continue to find yourself resisting forgiving yourself, ask yourself this question: “Why wouldn’t I want to forgive myself?” If your answer is “I don’t deserve it,” that is your shame talking. If you still feel like you don’t deserve forgiveness, perhaps you believe you need to earn it.
How do you earn forgiveness? First of all, you need to admit to yourself and others the wrongs you have committed. Unless you tell the complete truth about how you harmed others, first to yourself and then to the person or people you have hurt (if possible), you may not believe you deserve to be forgiven.
When you take responsibility for your actions you may feel more shame at the moment, but that feeling of shame will be replaced with a feeling of self-respect and of genuine pride (as opposed to false pride).
To prepare yourself for this process: Spend some time thinking seriously about how your actions or inaction have harmed the person. Completing the following sentence may help in this process:
“I harmed ________by___________________.”
Write down all the ways your action or inaction harmed this person.
“I caused______________to suffer in the following ways______________.”
The next step is to go to those you have harmed and admit what you have done to hurt them. It is important that you tell those you have harmed that they have a right to their anger and that you encourage them to voice their anger directly to you. Make certain, however, that you do not allow anyone to verbally abuse you or to shame you.
Your admittance of what you did to harm others is doubly powerful if it is accompanied by a heartfelt, sincere apology. When we are able to develop the courage to admit when we are wrong and to work past our fears and resistance and apologize, we develop a deep sense of respect in ourselves.
Forgiving Self Guided Meditation:
1. Close your eyes.
2. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and with your out breath, exhale all the air from your lungs. Just let your body relax. Breathing slow and deep. Let your body let go.
3. Bring your attention from your head and thoughts, and focus instead on your sacred heart – to the place of soft gentle energy of gratitude and loving kindness.
4. Feel yourself coming completely into this moment without thoughts of the outside world. Or of any worries. Feel your whole body relax. Feeling safe and calm.
5. See an image of yourself standing in front of you now.
6. And say to yourself: “Today I choose to forgive myself.”
7. See something in your life for which you haven’t yet been able to fully forgive yourself for come into focus.
8. See the details clearly and allow yourself to feel their sting. Take a few moments to see this image.
9. Direct the energy of love and forgiveness from your heart towards this image of yourself as you repeat the following words after me out loud.
10. “I love you. Please forgive me for all that I have knowingly or unknowingly done to hurt you. I release you from the bondage of unforgiveness. Right here and right now. I surrender the pain and suffering. I claim back my freedom. Divine Creator God, please neutralize now any guilt, shame, or blame that I placed upon myself and replace the energy with your unconditional love. Thank you for helping me and allowing me to learn my lessons and remember my blessings.”
11. Take a deep breath.
12. Reach out now to the image of yourself and give yourself a hug. Cradle yourself in your heart and feel the release. Watch, witness or feel any unhealthy attachments or emotions to the past you are experiencing to completely fade away.
13. Allow your entire being to feel the power of forgiveness, as light fills you with warmth and love.
14. Take a deep breath, and with the power of surrendering - repeat these affirmations out loud after me: I am at peace with who I am. I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Thank you.
15. With one more deep breath, feel yourself coming back into this time and space, feeling grounded to Mother Earth and open your eyes.