The Toughest of All — Forgiving Oneself

I was talking yesterday to a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is starting a study on the psychology of forgiveness. She asked people about their experiences in forgiving, especially for serious offenses.

Her interviews led to this conclusion: The hardest person to forgive usually is oneself. Why is that?

It seems to me that we are a lot harder on ourselves than we are on other people, even those who behave very unjustly. We hold ourselves to a much higher standard.

So, here are some helpful forgiveness hints for you if you are trying or in the future are in a position to forgive yourself.

First, try forgiving someone other than yourself. The point here is to try to get a sense of the the process of forgiveness. Once you have forgiven another, ask yourself these questions:

Have I seen this other person as someone of worth?

Do I have a softened heart, at least to a degree, for this person?

Have I tried to bear the pain of what happened so that I do not take it out on that person or others?

Now, turn this learning toward yourself and try to:

  • see yourself as possessing worth
  • soften your heart toward yourself, just as you did for the other person
  • bear the pain of what you did so that you do not keep beating yourself up over it.

Then add the following:

If you have offended anyone else by your actions, go to him or her and apologize. Seek forgiveness. Make things right.

If you are a person of faith, see what your next step is in the bigger picture.

Resolve to change your ways…..and then go in peace.
Dr. Bob

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1 comment

  1. Jacque says:

    I am always hardest on myself. This is not so great. Thanks for the challenge to start having compassion even on me.


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