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How To Forgive Yourself and Others

Pain, resentment, guilt, anger, and fear… all of these feelings bubble up inside of us when we think back on our mistakes or the mistakes of those dear to us.  Sometimes the only healthy way to move forward is to look back at our past and inject forgiveness into our lives.
Some say “forgive and forget.”  Others say “forgive, but never forget.”  No matter which path you choose, the act of forgiving is the first step.  Here are three simple ways to bring more forgiveness into your life.

Forgive Yourself

In general, we tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others.  If you’ve made mistakes in the past, it’s time to let your spirit heal by forgiving yourself.  We all do things we aren’t proud of.  Understand that you were doing the best you could at the time, with the experiences and knowledge you had accessible to you.

Self-forgiveness tips:

  • Pick an area of your life you would like to work on.  It could be failed relationships, family problems, or business mistakes.
  • Make a list of all of the people you might have hurt along the way.  This is the toughest part because we tend to bury some of these stressful memories.  So be honest with yourself and take your time.
  • After you’ve compiled your list, systematically go through each person on the list.  Think about the situation, validate the circumstances, and forgive yourself for hurting them.   As odd as it may feel, apologize aloud to yourself, “I forgive myself for hurting this person,” and take a deep breath.  Once you’ve completed this practice you’ll instantly feel a slight sense of relief.

Remember, the simple act of acknowledging your mistakes is always half the battle.

Ask for Forgiveness

Once you forgive yourself, it’s also important to clear the air with others.  A face to face apology is always the most effective approach.  Depending on the situation, you might be afraid to ask for forgiveness.  But if you don’t ask, you will never feel the relief of being pardoned for your mistakes.
If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to ask for forgiveness in person, I still recommend writing a letter of forgiveness.  The reason writing a letter works so well is that the process of writing the letter actually assists you in forgiving yourself by reducing pent-up, internal feelings of guilt.  It lets you express your thoughts and process all of the internal drama that has bottled-up in your mind.

Tips for writing your letter of forgiveness:

  • Don’t do it out of spite, or because you think it will elevate you to higher moral ground.  No good ever arises from deception.
  • Realize that a letter can’t undo the damage.  A letter of forgiveness might not be enough to change your relationship with the recipient, but it’s a significant step in the right direction.
  • Explain your rationale, but don’t make excuses for your behavior.  Own up to your actions and take responsibility.  Offer to fix the situation, or find a way to make it up to the person.
  • Make a sincere wish for the well-being of the person you hurt.  After many years of festering emotions, you may have come to hate the act of thinking about this person.  Stop being selfish!  It’s time to be honest and compassionate.

Hopefully, just writing the letter will allow you to move closer to a positive resolution on all fronts.

Forgive Others

If you’ve been hurt in the past, you don’t need to keep suffering.  Whether or not you’ve gotten closure is irrelevant.  You have the ultimate power to clear the air by simply forgiving those who have hurt you.
You should make a list of all of the people who have done something that still troubles you to this day. The list might start out small, but as you unwind your memories you are bound to find more people and incidents than you were previously aware of. Your mind represses these memories in an effort to preserve your conscious sanity.  The drawback is that you probably haven’t processed these events properly.  So while you aren’t actively thinking about them, they are quietly tugging at your consciousness and robbing you of mental energy.

Tips for forgiving others:

  • Close your eyes and picture the person standing in front of you.
  • In your mind’s eye, explain to them how you felt then, how you feel now, and what happened during those hurtful times.
  • After you’ve stated your views, let them acknowledge your pain.  Watch their reactions and wait for a response.  There’s a good chance they will understand your point of view.
  • Then hug them and tell them that you forgive them.  Yes!  Really do this with all of your emotional might, it’s a powerful process!  Release them from your troubled past and let your thoughts come back to the present.

After completing only a few of these processes, you’ll find yourself breathing deeper and interacting differently with these people.  Regardless of whether or not they are still a part of your daily life, you will forever see them in a more positive light… which will ultimately make your future brighter.



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