False guilt occurs when you have not broken your own moral standards. For example, suppose you have to meet someone soon and you forget your car keys, necessitating that you go back into your home, find your keys, get the keys, and now you are late for the meeting. You did not intentionally try to be late for that meeting. You made an error and did not willingly break a standard of honoring the other person. Your acceptance of imperfection may be in order, but to deeply blame the self would be excessive and therefore in all likelihood is false guilt. Genuine guilt occurs when you have broken your moral standards and now you are feeling guilty until you make amends. As a final point here, sometimes unintentional errors can be serious enough to warrant guilt. For example, if you are driving in your car and texting on your phone at the same time, resulting in an accident, you should have been paying more attention to the driving. In that case, even without an intention to do wrong, the guilt would be genuine.
Can you suggest at least one very effective way to motivate a person to start the forgiveness process?
I find that a person’s internal, emotional pain is a strong motivator to at lease consider forgiveness as a healing strategy. If the person has tried many different approaches, and none of them has led to significant relief, then a person often is ready to give forgiveness a try.
I have post-traumatic stress. Is it better to treat the symptoms, such as sleeplessness, first or to forgive first?
The answer depends on the symptoms of the post-traumatic stress. Because you have sleep challenges, these should be addressed first. If, instead, another person has some anger or sadness and these are not impinging on the person’s everyday life, then forgiving first can lessen these symptoms. The regulation of symptoms and forgiving can complement one another. For example, once your sleep pattern is regulated, your forgiving may help in establishing a regular sleep cycle. As the sleep cycle regulates, you may have more energy and focus to forgive well.
In my experience, many people misunderstand what forgiving is, equating it with reconciliation or excusing the other person’s behavior. In such cases, people are hesitant to forgive. So, in such cases, people first need some time to learn about what forgiveness actually is, which tends to quiet fears. Then people are more willing to try forgiving.
I have tried every solution and still I am angry. Even when I forgive, I am still angry. Do you have any advice for me?
We are all imperfect forgivers and so once you forgive, you still may have some anger left over. A key question for you is this: Is your anger strong and consistent or has it lessened and is not continually present? As long as the anger is not controlling you, then you are doing well. If, however, the anger continues to be strong and stays within you, I would recommend going back to the forgiveness process regarding this particular person. Practicing forgiveness and persevering in this can reduce the anger even more.