A Roadmap to Understanding Self-Forgiveness
Ahhh, forgiveness. The elusive, seemingly impossible dream. This entire topic is a real B, isn’t it? Forgiveness is a big area of exploration these days for my clients and a huge part of the equation to finding personal and spiritual freedom. I won’t lie, understanding self-forgiveness is even harder and is the work of a warrior.
What is forgiveness? Is it always necessary to forgive? Who do you forgive first? And how do you start forgiving yourself? These are just a few questions on this monumentally confusing topic that confront us as we move through personal transformation.
I know what a confusing mess forgiveness can seem like when you are starting down the road of spiritual awakening, so I’ve created this post as a roadmap to help get you started with understanding the basics of forgiveness and the process of starting where it matters most — yourself.
What is forgiveness?
The dictionary version of forgiveness is “to cease to feel resentment against”. It’s almost laughably simplistic, isn’t it? As simple as it sounds, there is usually no straight-line path to forgiveness. You don’t start at anger, resentment, and hurt and just walk on over to everything is awesome. If only it were that simple.
Forgiveness rather is a container in which you choose to nurture or not. It’s a continuum of moving back and forth through emotions and choices. You know you are within a state of forgiveness when your feelings of anger, hate or resentment become neutralized. This happens through acceptance of what it was that caused the feelings.
Marriage and Family Therapist Andrea Brant says that “by forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. This can be a gradual process…”
You don’t HAVE to feel happy or joyful when thinking about the person you are forgiving, or the parts of yourself you don’t enjoy looking at. But you don’t feel shame, guilt or resentment either.
Why is forgiveness important?
There is no doubt: forgiveness work can feel like a hot pile of steaming garbage to go through. So, it’s easy to wonder why-in-the-actual-hell you would ever put yourself through it.
The reason the work of self-forgiveness is transformative and worth it is because it elevates you to a place of peace in your life. This peace is the catalyst for self-love and allows space for you to begin forgiving others and enhancing your spiritual path.
Besides inner-peace, the forgiveness of yourself and of others helps us on our spiritual path. It connects us more to ourselves and to others, therefore bringing us to closer alignment with source.
“The way of the spirit is to embrace life — all of it….we often have the power to transform what is destructive in life. Forgiveness of others and self is an act of transformation and a high spiritual path.”
-Heather Seguin, Thymewood
Where to start with self-forgiveness.
Within personal transformation comes a portion of the deeper unveiling of one’s self. We hit certain milestones of release, awareness, and growth to then almost feel as if we are plateauing — or getting stuck at one point of growth. This, in fact, is a signal that you have gotten yourself very close to your core truth. The space just before core truth is where the lies you have about yourself — guilt and shame — reside.
This is the point of origin of the unwanted feelings. You are hitting the core of who you really are, and you freeze (plateau) because moving through those feelings is crazy-scary waters! Most people bail at this point and stay stuck in discontentment. This is where understanding self-forgiveness becomes essential to personal wellness and spiritual growth.
The anger, the sadness, the depression, the fear — those are the parts of yourself that need forgiveness and love. Forgive yourself for the things you may have done that you’re not proud of and for having so many negative feelings about yourself or your situation.
Often, the feelings we have when getting close to our truest self are extraordinarily complex and leave us unsure how to sort them out and process them.
How do you forgive feelings that you don’t understand?
Those yucky feelings that come up during self-forgiveness work that have you stuck, have embodied you on your journey. They have contributed to your sense of shame, hurt or worthlessness and by being there, have held you captive to staying the same.
They initiated to protect yourself — you have outgrown them once you are at the plateau of feeling stuck. It is here that you need to dawn your warrior attire and begin the work of forgiving yourself in order to move more towards your highest-self.
The most important person to forgive in life is YOU.
To release — to let go — we forgive. Remember these things as you begin to practice self-forgiveness:
Know that you have always done the best you could with what you knew, could handle, or were able to accept at the time of these events. Even in your worst moments, when you may have lost control — that was your truth then and that’s what you needed to experience.
Thank the experience, love it, forgive it, and let it go. We see these memories as the scars we carry, but they actually give us the ability to rise.
Feel those feelings. ALL feelings that arise are important to acknowledge and feel so they can be accepted and forgiven.
If you are reading this article, you are likely ready to start better understanding self-forgiveness and working on it. Doing the exercise below is a great way to start and will help you learn about your feelings, release them and create the inner peace that only self-forgiveness can bring.
- Write a letter (or audio record) to the parts of you that you don’t know how to face.
- It’s important to really focus on and bring up all the emotions attached to these shadow parts. These emotions can range from anger to sadness to jealousy to remorse.
- Go deep to acknowledge that those feelings about yourself exist and let them go by writing: “I forgive myself for all the harm I have caused myself and to others in the past. I forgive myself for ever having had these ugly feelings towards myself, and for punishing myself through self-hatred, guilt, and shame. I now release myself from these feelings and hold myself and all around me to the highest good.”
- If possible, do an inner-child meditation and hug yourself deep within. We all have a little girl inside of us just wanting to know that she’s accepted as she is, mistakes and all.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey.