‘To err is human but to forgive divine’ is a common saying used in the context of forgiving those who have done us harm. But what about forgiving ourselves for hurt we have caused?
If we tune into our internal chatter we might find that we are more forgiving of others than we are of ourselves. If ‘to err is human’ we should accept that part of being human means that we will do wrong on occasion.We do something which is not in line with our highest values. Be gentle with yourself when this happens and see that you did your best with the level of awareness you had at that time.
If we have behaved in ways that we now regret it may take time to fully appreciate the impact of our actions, and find the courage to make amends. However, while owning our wrong doing can be emotionally painful it is a necessary step in the self forgiveness process. It releases us from the pain of denying what we know deep down to be true. But a word of caution – in owning our actions we should not succumb to self criticism. This will serve no cause, keeps us stuck in the past and prevents us from moving forward with our lives.
Part of the self forgiveness process can be to look for some ‘pure’ motivation however misguided (e.g. a wish to help another) behind our action , even if with mature reflection we can now see that we should have acted differently.
Looking at our motivation is not to be confused with reflecting on lessons learned. This is also important because we will tend to be presented with similar situations again, and need to internalize the learnings from experience if we are to position ourselves to act differently the next time.
If you have difficulty letting go of guilt, shame or self criticism associated with your actions, it may also be worth examining whether this is due in some way to conditioning during your childhood formative years i.e. you may be ‘wired’ to think in this way. Knowing this to be the case will make you less self judgmental and more objective in reviewing the facts of particular situations.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of defining yourself by your mistakes, rather feed off the lessons for your personal growth and consign your mistakes to the past.