How To Forgive Yourself


As a parent I have about a million opportunities to screw up everyday.  When I do, it can be important to do a little self-forgiveness so that I can move on to the next challenge without the weight of guilt around my shoulders.  We all make mistakes (in parenting and otherwise), so naturally are all in need of forgiveness at one time or another.  Sometimes we seek forgiveness from others, but it’s from ourselves that forgiveness is also desired.

Some ideas about how to forgive yourself and move on:

Be Intentional. When thinking about forgiving yourself a transgression, it can be useful to be organized about it. What is it that you have done? Why would you like to forgive yourself? What will that forgiveness mean in the long term? Writing these things down might also be useful as a way to keep your thoughts clear and organized.

Make a moment out of it. Give yourself the time and space to really think through what forgiveness means, and then give it to yourself. Instead of trying to accomplish this difficult task while driving kids to soccer practice or making dinner, try carving out some time just for yourself to sit and process it all. Preferably time when you won’t be interrupted – but instead have the luxury of spending some real, quality time with yourself.

Let yourself move on. Forgiving ourselves doesn’t mean we have forgotten what we have done, but it does mean letting go of the anger, guilt and shame associated with event. It will likely take some practice, but true forgiveness means allowing yourself to move on from the past with improved knowledge and behavior.

Want to read more about forgiveness? Check out my posts:

What Is Forgiveness?

How to Forgive Someone

Parts of this post originally appeared on Personal Development Genesis.

How To Forgive Someone

The other day I posted about forgiveness.  Actually, I wrote a lot about what forgiveness is NOT.  Take a look.  Now that we know what forgiveness is (because there are a lot of misconceptions out there), how do we do it?

  1. Forgiveness can’t be forced.  We forgive people in our lives because we want to, and have gotten to a place where we are emotionally able to.  Forgiveness doesn’t happen because a) Someone apologized to us b) We feel like we should c) Someone bullies us into it.  Insincere or coerced forgiveness just isn’t the real deal.
  2. Forgiveness is about moving on.  When we decide to forgive someone, it means that we have decided that we want to move on from the experience, and actively release its hold on our emotions and behaviors.
  3. Forgiveness does not equal forgetting.  Most of us have pretty good memories, meaning that there is no way we will forget the harm that has been done.  Luckily, that’s not what forgiving is.  Instead, forgiving is saying something like: “I know exactly what happened to me and what it meant, but I am going to choose to look forward and move on with my life.  I realize what has happened in the past, but I am going to build my future in a different way; and not let that past hurt continue to cast a shadow over me.”
  4.  Forgiveness doesn’t always mean relationship.  Just because you have forgiven someone, doesn’t mean you have to stay in a relationship with them.  Forgiveness simply means releasing yourself from the power of the past event.  It has nothing to do with continuing on in a relationship.  When you choose to forgive AND stay in relationship with the transgressor, it does mean you will be making yourself vulnerable to future hurts.  Vulnerability is a big part of relationships no matter how you cut it.  But that’s a topic for another time.

Forgiveness is something that affects all of us as one time or another.  In fact, just about everyone experiences both sides of the coin: being the forgiver and the forgivee.  It’s an important skill in overall mental health.


What is Forgiveness?

San Fran 2009 004

Forgiveness is tricky business. So tricky, in fact, that I rarely use the word.  I find that it’s too complicated, too misunderstood, and too emotionally charged to be used very often.  For example, does forgiving someone mean you have forgotten their transgressions?  Does it mean that what they did to hurt you doesn’t matter anymore? Are they free to do it again?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes it is more useful to consider what forgiveness is NOT.

  • Forgiveness is NOT forgetting a past hurt or transgression
  • Forgiveness is NOT something that comes easily or without much thought or effort
  • Forgiveness is NOT something that happens automatically when the transgressor has apologized.  Instead it is something solely in the hands of the person who has been hurt.  It is their decision and action alone.
  • Forgiveness does NOT equal a continued relationship.  Meaning: you can forgive someone of something, and also then choose to terminate your relationship with them.  The two actions have nothing to do with one another.

Forgiving someone else (or even oneself) can be an important piece of mental health, particularly when it comes to some of the bigger hurts in life.  But it can’t be rushed; and it definitely isn’t useful when it is insincerely given, or bullied out of us.  Stay tuned for tips on how to forgive.