Here are three assurances that will help you move forward.
Why is it easier to forgive someone else than to forgive yourself? Carrying a terrible sense of guilt for something that happened in the past is too heavy a weight to bear; we cannot carry it forever. Why can we forgive others, even if they have done terrible things, and yet, we cannot forgive ourselves for something much less serious? Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Quite often, life puts us in situations in which we cannot see clearly or act with total clarity, or in which we simply make a mistake. Every day of our lives, we are tested, and our success or failure affects our feelings; sometimes we give more weight to our failures than to our successes.
To err is human. Making mistakes is a fundamental part of learning, and becoming able to accept and deal with our errors is part of emotional maturity. There is no one who never makes mistakes, and we have to learn to forgive ourselves as well as others.
When we have to forgive ourselves, it’s very different from forgiving someone else; we are alone, and we aren’t dealing with other people. It’s a strictly internal process, in which we need not give explanations or justifications to anyone else. Here are three ideas that can help us as we face ourselves, as both judge and accused:
1. Take responsibility where it is due
We must keep in mind that our actions always have consequences. Taking responsibility for our actions requires a sincere effort on our part. Recognizing the errors we have committed frees us, makes us more mature, and makes us stronger and more able to face reality. This is a vitally important part of being mature human beings, and although it can be difficult, it will also give us the satisfaction of being honest and coherent.
2. Know how to forgive yourself
We have to give ourselves the opportunity to be who and what we are, and we should appreciate ourselves as such. We have to accept that we live with fears, insecurity, and feelings that influence our actions. It’s fundamental that we understand that it is acceptable to make mistakes; we’re allowed to err. We should not be too hard on ourselves.
3. Forgiveness is the quickest path to starting over
When we have forgiven ourselves, we can move on and focus once again on what is important. This doesn’t mean that we should stop being responsible or doing our best to get things right; rather, it means we should learn from our mistakes and free ourselves from the burden of guilt so we can use our experience and begin to help ourselves — and others as well — to do better.
One of the greatest, most unproductive, and most self-destructive mental traps that we can get caught in is not being able to overcome a feeling of guilt. Sometimes it seems as if our brain doesn’t know what do with the uncomfortable sensation that guilty feeling gives us, and we end up projecting it outwards, which can damage our relationships and our ability to live a healthy life. Just as we forgive others who ask us for forgiveness, and hope they will forgive us when we apologize, so also we need to forgive ourselves. There is not a single example of when not forgiving ourselves is constructive.
To conclude, we can say that once we forgive ourselves, life will surely put us in situations — whether new or familiar — in which we will now know how to react in a healthy and natural way, resulting in an improvement of our emotional state. Although sometimes it is difficult to manage it, forgiving ourselves is always a freeing experience. Forgiveness helps us to take control over our own lives again, to know ourselves better, and ultimately, to be happier.
"Since you are here...
…we'd like to have one more word with you. More and more of you are reading Aleteia, and we are excited to be a part of your life! Our team proves its mission every day by working to encourage and inspire Christian life. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge — but quality journalism has a cost...more than ads can cover. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable.