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Forgiveness is a big word!
We hear and read about it all the time. We are told to forgive our (ex)partners, our parents, our friends—crime victims are even being told to forgive their perpetrators in order to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced.
All of the five major religions mention forgiveness, but not one of them describes self-forgiveness.
Forgiving is so powerful, and life feels lighter once it’s done, but why do we concentrate on forgiving other people? We give so much attention to the outside while running away from our own body, mind, and soul.
The Bible (Matthew 6:14) actually says:
“If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Reading this verse, one question remained unanswered in my mind:
“What if God forgives me for my sins, but I haven’t forgiven myself? Can I live a happy life?”
The few existing studies that have been conducted on the subject have found a correlation between self-forgiveness and drug or alcohol addiction and use, as well as smoking, gambling, and eating disorders.
Since I started to tackle my past traumas and the guilt and shame that came along with it, I stopped smoking, have been staying away from hard liquor, and have not been drunk once. My habit of binge eating sweets and chocolate whenever I’m stressed has got a lot better, and I exercise a lot more than I ever used to.
Self-compassion is key; it allows me to treat myself better than I ever have before. My priorities have changed and I now put my own well-being first.
The bad news is, good things take time, and forgiving ourselves requires us to do some psychological work. This has been the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life—but it’s worth it!
Scientists Julie H. Hall and Frank D. Fincham surmise that:
“The feelings of guilt and regret must be fully experienced before one can move toward self-forgiveness.”
I can confirm that to be true.
I’m not going to lie; opening old wounds and reliving painful situations and incidents from the past was terrible. I cried for days and thought I would never make it out of bed ever again—I even considered taking antidepressants.
Then, all of a sudden, I realized that I just needed to feel compassion and empathy toward myself. For the first time ever, I felt bad for myself.
Acknowledgment and awareness are the first steps—for everything. Only then can we work on repairing relationships, even the one with ourselves. In my case, it meant walking away from a lot of people and situations, even turning my back on immediate family members.
It’s been a year, and I smile at my old self now. I smile at everyone who dealt with my old self. I don’t hold grudges. I’m just happy that I’m not that girl anymore and that I broke up with the old me.
Every morning when I wake up, I’m amazed at how easy life feels now. I’ve fully accepted the fact that it took me until my mid-30s to reach this level of self-awareness, gratitude, and happiness. I couldn’t be more excited about the future.
Self-forgiveness is a gift to yourself—but without acknowledging any wrongdoing and developing a feeling of responsibility, there is nothing to forgive.
I myself am guilty of wasting many years overthinking and staying in unhealthy relationships.
In my imagination, I hug the old me all of the time and give her all the love she needs. I even talk to her sometimes, but most of the time, I smile, knowing she has grown and forgiven herself—I saved her and will never let her down again.
It’s as if I’ve finally solved a riddle and unlocked the door to the next level. Self-forgiveness was the answer I’d been searching for for so long.