Sometimes, we’re our own harshest critics. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and when it comes to making mistakes, we may find it easier to forgive others more easily than ourselves.
If you’ve made mistakes in the past, it can be easy to be overly critical of yourself. Some people feel that they don’t deserve forgiveness and subconsciously beat themselves up as punishment.
Being able to forgive yourself requires effort, humility, compassion, and understanding. And while it’s not always easy, learning how to learn from your mistakes, let go, and move on is important for your mental health.
9 tips for forgiving yourself for the past
- Accept responsibility for your mistake. Facing what you have done is the first step toward forgiving yourself. Don’t make excuses or try to justify your actions. Acknowledge where you were wrong.
- Don’t suppress your emotions. It’s completely normal and even healthy to feel shame or guilt when you’ve done something wrong. So allow yourself to feel your emotions. Let your feelings out by having a good cry or talking with a trusted friend.
- Remember that you’re not perfect. Remind yourself that you are bound to make mistakes, like anyone else. But you are doing the best you can to avoid making the same ones, and that’s all you can ask for.
- Embrace mistakes as a learning experience. See this as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. Identify where you could have done better and make a plan for how to handle similar situations in the future. This can help give you the confidence that you won’t repeat your mistakes.
- Repair the damage. If your actions hurt someone, make amends by apologizing and look for ways you can make up to them. This can give you a sense of peace in knowing that you did the right thing.
- Be realistic. As much as you may want to do so, there’s no way to go back in time and undo the past. Accept that you may not be able to completely escape the consequences of your actions. All you can do is use the experience to keep improving and growing.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t allow your inner critic to keep pestering you with negative thoughts and pulling you back into a trap of self-hate or pity. Practice self-love and show some compassion to yourself.
- Focus on moving on forward. Holding onto past mistakes does more harm than good. Once you have accepted what you’ve done, taken action to correct any damage you did, let go and focus on taking steps to make better choices in the future.
- Seek help if needed. Sometimes, the process of self-forgiveness is difficult to do on your own. Seek help from a family member or close friend, or consider talking to a therapist about how you can break unhealthy behavioral patterns and work on bettering yourself.
What are the benefits of self-forgiveness?
Learning to forgive yourself is crucial to your mental and emotional well-being. It helps you to:
We often hear the phrase “treat yourself” throughout the year, but we hear it considerably more around the holidays. Treating yourself to tangible things might increase your happiness for a brief amount of time, but it’s important to know that we can also find meaning in things that will boost our self-esteem.
The best way to boost your self-esteem and reduce stress is by learning how to forgive yourself. By being forgiving of yourself, you can then accept yourself and be more responsible for your life choices. Self-forgiveness is the willingness to believe that you are worthy of love, respect, and great success. There are dangers when we fail to forgive, and these dangers might have the potential to limit our relationships with others and ourselves. A failure to forgive yourself might have the same consequences as holding grudges on others. Grudges or regret might lead to emotional bondage, uneasiness in your spirit, and induce uncertainty surrounding your relationships.
Forgiving yourself can be a difficult experience, as we tend to hold ourselves to higher standards. The act of self-forgiveness changes the energy and the physical structure of your cells and DNA. When you experience guilt, it can begin to close off important systems in your body that are responsible for healing. Guilt and regret are both very powerful emotions that represent feelings of resentment and might lead to self-punishment. The lack of forgiveness is emotionally and physically damaging.
When you have a hard time forgiving yourself it might lead to emotional, mental, and physical damage. Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is the one you face in the mirror. Some common emotions that challenge self-forgiveness are feelings of unworthiness, unresolved trauma, focusing on the past, placing blame on yourself, fear of failure, and regret.
The past cannot be changed, and the future depends on the decisions you make today. Here are some ways you might be able to help yourself or others in the journey of forgiveness:
- Acceptance. Acknowledge that you are a human, and know that every human makes mistakes. You are not a bad person, but one that needs grace and forgiveness. Take responsibility for your own healing.
- Learn from mistakes. Try to learn from your mistakes. Take the time to focus on the message, and understand the lesson being shared with you. Mistakes are an opportunity for growth.
- Take risks. Be willing to take risks. Try something new to help you find yourself again. Seek methods like therapy or creative outlets to channel your feelings. This will help you process and begin to move forward.
- Visualize the future. Picture yourself free from guilt, regret, and self-condemnation. Start by setting goals with your healing process. Visualize what your life would look like if you were free from regret.
Be intentional in new and improved decisions that might begin to open up opportunities for forgiveness and a happier future. Take time for yourself and your own healing.
If you or someone you know is struggling in the process of letting go, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) for more information.
Forgiveness isn’t always easy. When someone hurts you, it can require major strength (and maturity) to take a deep breath, put your ego aside, and accept a sincere apology. But what happens if the person you need to forgive is, er, yourself? Let’s face it: You might need to forgive yourself for a harmful thing you did. Maybe you’ve even already asked someone else for forgiveness, but you can’t let yourself off the hook. Or maybe you need to grant yourself forgiveness for an annoying pattern that does more harm in your life than you’d like (hello, people-pleasing).
Whether you made a few careless comments on a recent Zoom call, or you’re tired of never sticking up for yourself, it can feel downright impossible to forgive yourself and let that shit go. Below, we talked to experts about why and how to forgive yourself (because you deserve it).
1. Approach yourself like you would a best friend.
“When we've done something that is outside our moral [comfort] zone, often we start beating ourselves up about it, which doesn't really help. So we have to practice a lot of self-compassion,” Emily Jamea, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., tells SELF. How do we do that? You know the feeling when your best friend calls post-breakup and starts saying terrible things about themselves? Even if there is an opportunity for your bestie to grow from their pain, you probably start with, “Hey, you’re human—be kind to yourself.” Still, we don’t always provide that caveat for ourselves. So what would it look like to address yourself as if you were talking to a friend? “That question alone can help create a little bit of perspective and soften the negative feelings we may have toward ourselves,” Dr. Jamea says.
If you’re infamously hard on your friends (under the guise of “being honest”), this tip might not work. Instead, try looking at yourself as if you’re a child or even a rambunctious puppy. The idea is to soften your heart toward your mistakes. Robert Allan, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., assistant professor of couple and family therapy at the University of Colorado, Denver, tells SELF that you should remember that “making mistakes is human. We're all going to make them.” There’s a difference between saying, “What I did was terrible” and “I am terrible.”
2. Write (or talk) the facts out.
Often, when you do something wrong, you might feel an overwhelming rush of guilt. That can make it tempting to view the interaction through a hazy mix of shame and catastrophic thinking, or even to try to deny the effect your actions have had. In these cases, it might help write down what happened, even if it wasn’t pretty, to say it out loud to yourself, or to discuss it with a nonjudgemental person you trust.
“You have to be able to say, ‘This is something that I do or this is something that I have done, and it has had an impact on me or others in ways that I don't want it to,’” Dr. Allan says, adding that if we can’t name what we’ve done, it’s harder to change it. So write down the facts or share them with someone you trust. The key here is to do whatever helps you own up to the truth of whatever occurred.
3. Then remember that all behaviors have an origin story.
If you yell when you’re angry or work too hard to please others, these tactics probably helped you at some point, Dr. Allan says. So remind yourself that, even though it’s time to let go of these strategies, they’ve enabled your survival. To that end, forgiveness has to include “an acceptance of that part of ourselves,” Dr. Allan says. Think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your personality: Thank those habits for assisting you, but—since they no longer spark joy or offer emotional protection—let them go.
4. Try to make amends.
You looked at your situation through a more compassionate lens, you named what happened, you acknowledged how destructive behaviors have been helpful in the past, so now ask yourself how you’d like to make amends. Let’s say you’re angry at yourself for letting another week go by without cleaning your apartment. You might take a look at your calendar and figure out another realistic day. If your transgression is something like yelling at a friend during a drunken Zoom party, you might brainstorm ways to keep yourself from overdrinking on future calls. The idea isn’t to punish yourself. “An amends takes an apology one step further,” Dr. Jamea says. “It's accountability for what you did and commitment to doing differently in the future.”
5. Remember that forgiveness is a process.
Part of the reason self-forgiveness can feel so nebulous is that it isn’t a one-time affair. It doesn’t automatically appear after you’ve said “I’m sorry” in the mirror. “Forgiveness is an active process, and it can require repetition,” Dr. Allan says. This might not be the only conversation that you need to release the grudge you’re holding against yourself. Maybe you need to work with a therapist or other mental health professional to support you. Ultimately, you might need to grant yourself some patience. “Forgiveness isn’t a doorway,” Dr. Allan says, “consider forgiveness something that you engage with over time.”
Someone recently asked about ways to move forward and learn to forgive yourself after a particularly difficult mistake or poor decision. This can be especially hard to do when you feel you are reliving the consequences of decisions for some time after you made them. Here are four steps to help you begin to forgive yourself and move past mistakes.
Acknowledge you are human. The first step to forgiving yourself after a mistake is to acknowledge that you are a human being and sometimes you get it wrong. To be fully honest, sometimes, as humans, we can get it really wrong and that can be hard to live with. Somehow, seeing our own humanity can feel so much worse than someone else’s. Often we can acknowledge that forgiveness is important, including forgiveness of ourselves, but we tend to feel that what we’ve done doesn’t count and may be unforgivable. We think, either consciously or subconsciously, that we can’t forgive ourselves for that, whatever that may be. We may feel we knew better or, at least, should have. Whatever the thoughts are, we struggle with accepting that sometimes being human means messing up. big time. Forgiving yourself and accepting your humanity, though, does not mean letting yourself off the hook. It’s simply acknowledging that you don’t always get it right and that that is the nature of humanity. There’s a space between “oh, well, no big deal” and “I must beat myself up for this forever”. You can take accountability for where you went wrong, and all that that means, and simultaneously choose to move forward in life.
Do some damage control, if you can. Sometimes when we make a mistake, we can feel paralyzed. We are ashamed and feel guilty and, really, just want to move on and, maybe even, pretend it didn’t happen. We can sometimes hope the person or people we wronged will just move on as well. We may feel bringing it up with the them can make things worse. In some instances, that may be true but usually ignoring or minimizing your mistake can let the damage spiral. It can make others involved feel you don’t care or aren’t sorry when the truth is that you do feel pretty bad about it. Take ownership of your mistake. Apologize sincerely to anyone affected. Attempt to make amends in whatever reasonable way makes sense. This approach won’t change the fact that it happened but it can possibly stop the effects of your mistake or, at least, minimize them in some way.
Apologizing and attempting to make appropriate amends can also help you feel better about yourself. If you’ve made a mistake and have not attempted to reconcile your role in the situation, you may be carrying the unresolved guilt of your decisions and behavior. Addressing your actions, and trying to make up for things in a way that makes sense for the situation, can help you know that you have done what you can to right your wrongs. It can feel good to take ownership of your own behavior. Fully mending the issue may not be feasible or appropriate in every situation but facing up to what you’ve done is always a good first step. Own your mistake and sincerely do what you can to fix it. Even if it has been a while since the situation occurred, it’s okay to go to the person or people and say, “I should have done this a while ago, but I’m really sorry for back when I …..” Then know that, short of turning back the hands of time, you have genuinely done your best to rectify or apologize for the situation and can feel free to forgive yourself and move forward.
Sometimes, though, the person most affected by our mistakes or decisions is our self. In that case, the same ideas apply. Try to figure out appropriate ways to make up for what you feel you may have lost by making a particular mistake or decision, if possible. Acknowledge that you hurt yourself with your behavior and don’t try to cancel or minimize the feelings you’re having as a result. Process them and then actively remind yourself that you forgive you for not knowing better or for falling short in this particular instance.
Do some soul searching. After experiencing the guilt or shame of a mistake then owning up to it and making amends where possible, the last thing you want to do is make that same mistake again. We are human so sometimes we make mistakes a few times before we learn. But the best way to avoid the pain of living with our poor decisions over and over is to figure out what made us make them in the first place. This requires some insightful thought and real honesty with yourself. It may help to talk with someone who knows you well and whom you trust. Journaling your thoughts and feelings can also help. The process of writing things out while you think through them can help gain insight as well as offer you a way to express what you have been holding inside, if talking to someone is not an immediate option or always preferable. If your bad decisions are really weighing you down or you can’t seem to figure out why you’re making them, a therapist can also be helpful. An outside, unbiased influence can be quite useful when processing our own behavior.
Choose to move forward. You can spend a literal lifetime living under the guilt and shame of your past. It can become a habit to relive the thoughts and feelings of a particular mistake or time period and the resulting fallout. It can almost begin to be like second nature living with those feelings. When living this way has begun to feel automatic, it requires a conscious choice to release the hold these feelings have on you. Once you have acknowledged your humanity, attempted to make amends, and done some soul searching, the last step is to choose to release the guilt and shame and actively forgive yourself. When the thoughts and feelings begin to surface, give yourself permission to release them. Remind yourself that you don’t have to keep traveling this same path over and over. You can choose a different route. Remind yourself of what you know. One, you are human and humans make mistakes, sometimes big time ones. Two, you apologized and tried, or were able, to make reasonable amends which is all that’s in your control at this point. Three, you have attempted to grow and learn from the experience in an effort to do your best not to repeat it. Thoughts or urges to continue the cycle of shaming yourself and holding on to guilt may seem to come from out of nowhere and feel out of your control. There may even be someone else bringing up the past and attempting to shame you. However, you get to decide if you will entertain those thoughts or choose to release them. Actively remind yourself that you can release them and you can move forward. Soon enough, with repetition, you will begin to automatically release the feelings of guilt in the same way that you had previously entertained it automatically.
Just as every good thing we have ever done doesn’t define the whole of who we are, neither does every bad thing. You get to be a whole person full of beauty and flaws. Embrace your full humanity by appreciating your success as well as learning from your mistakes. You can learn to forgive yourself and allow your past to be just that.
E veryone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.
It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness. In fact, they’re unfairly self-critical.
Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me might set the alarm clock for 6 a.m. to get up and exercise… and then when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: “Who set the darn clock?”
Meet your 'inner critic' and 'inner protector'
There is a kind of "inner critic" and "inner protector" inside each of us. For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn’t credit you for your efforts to make amends.
Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and—frankly—to tell that inner critic to shut up.
Excessive guilt undermines your energy, mood, confidence, and sense of worth.
With the support of your inner protector, you can see your faults clearly without fearing that they will drag you into a pit of feeling awful. You can clean up whatever mess you’ve made as best you can and move on. The only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame, or remorse is learning—not punishment!—so that you don’t mess up in that way again. Anything past the point of learning is just needless suffering. Plus, excessive guilt actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping make this world a better place. It undermines your energy, mood, confidence, and sense of worth.
Seeing faults clearly, taking responsibility for them with remorse and making amends, and then coming to peace about them—this is what I mean by forgiving yourself.
How to forgive
Start by picking something relatively small that you’re still being hard on yourself about, and then try the method below:
●︎ Sort what happened into three piles: moral faults, unskillfulness, and everything else. Moral faults deserve proportionate guilt, remorse, or shame, but unskillfulness calls for correction, no more. (This point is very important.)
●︎ You could ask others what they think about this sorting—include those you may have wronged—but you alone get to decide what’s right. For example, if you gossiped about someone and embellished a mistake he made, you might decide that the lie in your exaggeration is a moral fault deserving a wince of remorse, but that casual gossip (which most of us do, at one time or another) is simply unskillful and should be corrected (i.e. never done again) without self-flagellation.
●︎ In an honest way, take responsibility for your moral fault(s) and unskillfulness. Say in your mind or out loud (or write): I am responsible for X, Y, and Z. Let yourself feel it.
●︎ Then add to yourself: But I am NOT responsible for A, B, and C. For example, you are not responsible for the misinterpretations or over-reactions of others. Let the relief of what you are NOT responsible for sink in.
●︎ Acknowledge what you have already done to learn from this experience, and to repair things and make amends. Let this sink in. Appreciate yourself.
●︎ Next, decide what if anything remains to be done—inside your own heart or out there in the world—and then do it. Let it sink in that you’re doing it, and appreciate yourself for this, too.
●︎ And now, actively forgive yourself. Say in your mind, out loud, in writing, or perhaps to others statements like: I forgive myself for A, B, and C. I have taken responsibility and done what I could to make things better.
You may need to go through one or more the steps above again and again to truly forgive yourself, and that’s alright.
Allow the experience of being forgiven to take some time to sink in. Help it sink in by opening up to it in your body and heart, and by reflecting on how it will help others for you to stop beating yourself up.
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Learning how to forgive yourself is difficult. It takes time, effort, and patience to make peace with your mistakes and move on. As adults, we’re more likely to forgive others, but we need to remember to practice the same kind of empathy for ourselves. Regardless of the scale of your mistake, it’s important you allow yourself to go through all the motions and feel all your feelings.
Self forgiveness simply means that you have accepted the mistake and the outcome of the mistake and are willing to work to move past it. It means you won’t ruminate on the mistake, allowing yourself the humility to accept that you are a human being who is imperfect. Forgiveness doesn’t equate to condoning a specific behavior, nor should one think that they can act a certain way and ask for forgiveness later. Forgiveness comes with a certain amount of self-awareness, allowing the person to feel deeply sorry and reflect that in their behavior. 1
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Here are nine tips for how to forgive yourself:
1. Remember, Mistakes Are Learning Experiences
Mistakes can be a good way to learn about yourself and take the outcome as an opportunity to reflect. It’s important that we take risks in life; sometimes, that means taking the hits with an eager-to-learn heart.
2. Give Yourself Permission to Process
It’s important that you give yourself permission to process the mistake and learn to deal with it in a healthy way. Sometimes, that means taking a step away from it. Give yourself permission to step away without guilt or feeling like you’re running away from your problems. We all need a minute to regroup.
3. Own the Mistake
There is nothing quite like owning up to your mistakes. By owning your mistakes, you are taking power back from the mishap and can redirect that energy into making it better.
4. Challenge Yourself
It’s easy to beat up on yourself when you’re already feeling down, but take time to challenge what your inner monologue is. What if you spoke to yourself with compassion? What would your inner monologue say back? How would you feel? Would you handle the aftermath of the mistake any differently? Consider all of these questions.
5. Call Yourself Out
When you’re trying to forgive yourself but have doubts about whether you deserve to be forgiven, call yourself out the way you’d call out a friend who was doubting themselves. It’s important that you remain your biggest supporter, advocate, and fan.
6. Taste Your Own Medicine
Do you have friends who give great advice but rarely listen to it? You’ve probably done the exact same thing. Take a minute to consider some of your own sage advice about moving on from a mistake.
7. Turn Off the Negative Thoughts
Don’t stay in one place and perseverate on the mistake. Replaying it over and over again doesn’t do anyone any good. When the mistake is over, reflect, but don’t unpack and stay in the feelings of shame and guilt.
8. Feel All Your Feelings
Make sure you allow yourself to feel the depth of all your emotions without feeling like you’re teetering on toxic positivity. Be real with yourself, let all your feelings out, grieve, and give yourself permission to move on.
9. Talk to a Therapist
It can help to talk to a therapist and identify what holds you back from forgiving yourself. Not only will this help you in the present moment, but you may also learn techniques for the future. 2
How to Forgive Yourself for the Unforgivable?
Long-term beliefs that certain mistakes are somehow unforgivable can seem impossible to work through. When we hold onto the belief that we cannot be forgiven, it saddles us with an emotional load. Feelings of shame and guilt are part of the human experience, but if you don’t forgive yourself, it only makes those feelings worse.
Shame and guilt affect us in different ways, especially when we’re already vulnerable. It’s important to understand that as humans, we all make mistakes, but those mistakes don’t define us or make us less worthy of forgiveness. If you feel like you are no longer worth forgiving, consider reaching out to a therapist. 3
When You Can’t Forgive Yourself, Therapy Can Help
Working with a therapist is a great way to work through the barriers to self-forgiveness. Your therapist can help you learn where these barriers came from and how to heal from them. Therapy is also an opportunity to learn coping mechanisms for emotionally uncomfortable experiences. There are many resources to help you choose a therapist, including online directories. 4
Self-forgiveness can be difficult, but it is always achievable. Remember, you’re not alone; we all make mistakes. There are so many ways to work through the challenges that block the path to self-forgiveness. With time, patience, and faith in yourself, you can learn to let go and move forward.
We’re programmed to hold ourselves to a high standard—and many of us have a harder time forgiving ourselves than we do forgiving others. While self-forgiveness looks different for everyone and won’t happen overnight, here are some steps you can take to let go of the past and start the journey toward acceptance:
1. Recognize that the past is the past.
To learn how to forgive yourself, you must first acknowledge that the past is the past. This seems fairly straightforward, but when we can really wrap our head around the fact that we can’t undo the past—that the past is done, that those things happened—we open ourselves up to more acceptance.
2. Become clear on your morals and values as they are right now.
The reason most of us feel guilt or shame for our past actions is because those actions were not in line with our current morals and values. In this way, our previous wrongdoings can actually clue us in to what we hold now important. Think about what you value now and how that’s different from the past. This process will help you start to get a clearer picture as to why you’re hurting and get you closer on the path to self-forgiveness.
3. . then, start acting in accordance with them.
Commit to replacing the negative thoughts and behaviors with more appropriate ones that are in keeping with the morals and values you just identified. By so doing, you’ll reaffirm to yourself that you can handle situations the way you want to. This can lead to a sense of pride, which is a huge part of building self-esteem and forgiving yourself.
4. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
Our actions always depend on the skills we have, the frame of mind we’re in, and how we perceive a situation in the moment. Maybe when we made the mistake, we didn’t have as much objectivity or we acted out of survival mode. Maybe we’d let stress build up, which put us at a higher risk of responding poorly. Whatever the factors, cut yourself a break. If you learned from it, it wasn’t in vain.
4. Give yourself a “redo.”
Never underestimate the power of a “redo.” Write down how you would have done things differently if you could go back and do it again. In doing so, we affirm that we not only learned from our past mistake but that if we had the skills we have now, back then, we would have done things differently.
6. Identify your patterns of behavior that you regret.
When I work with clients on moving on from their past, it can be very overwhelming because they see so many regrets. It’s often helpful to categorize these and focus on patterns of behavior instead of individual regrets.
7. Tackle the big ones first.
There may be some regrets that seem to come up again and again for you, and those are going to require some extra work. You might want to clear your conscience by actually calling up the person you wronged and apologizing to them.
8. Turn the page.
At some point, you have to accept that the past has happened, and you’ve done everything in your power to amend previous mistakes. It’s now time to turn the page and accept those events as part of your story. They’ve all contributed to making you who you are. Being grateful for those experiences allows you to move on and truly forgive yourself.
9. Cut yourself some slack.
When we learned how to ride a bike, most of us realized it would probably take a few tries before achieving perfection. New behavior and thinking patterns are no different. They’re both skills. Cut yourself some slack and recognize that you’re going to make mistakes–we all do.
10. Move toward self-love.
The last step to learning how to forgive yourself is building self-esteem. The best way to do that is practicing self-love. Think kind thoughts about yourself, and show yourself some compassion.
If self-love and self-acceptance do not come easy to you, consider working with a trained therapist for an outside perspective. You are more than your past mistakes.
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Sometimes, we continue to be hard on ourselves long after God has forgiven us.
Jesus has already suffered for our sins
Jesus suffered for your sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. When we do something wrong, we can repent and become clean again because of Jesus’s sacrifice. Forgiving ourselves is an act of faith in Him.
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.” —Doctrine and Covenants 19:16
That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want because Jesus has already taken care of it. But it does mean that we should have faith and move forward with our lives once we have repented. We shouldn’t dwell on past mistakes.
Guilt can weaken our relationship with God
If we continue to let guilt affect us after we have repented and received forgiveness, we can actually distance ourselves from God.
Sometimes we get the idea that God doesn’t want to talk to us or that we are unworthy to pray. This is not true. God loves all His children and is perfectly willing to forgive when we sincerely repent. When God forgives, it’s like the sin never happened.
“But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” —Moroni 6:8
It is important to understand that the devil “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). The misery that comes from guilt hinders our ability to feel the Spirit. God wants us to experience joy as we repent of our sins and follow Jesus Christ.
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Learn to let go and move on
A prophet from the Book of Mormon named Enos wrote about his experience asking God for forgiveness. He prayed all day and night, and he heard a voice say, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (see Enos 1:5). The beauty of this story is how Enos reacted. He wrote, “And I, Enos knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (see Enos 1:6).
Enos did not continue to dwell on his mistakes. Instead, he immediately began to pray for the welfare of others. He went from thinking inwardly to thinking about others. Take Enos’s example to heart and learn to quickly move on after you have repented.
Forgiving yourself is healthy
Forgiving yourself is a concept supported by medical and mental health professionals. Though often thought of as a religious doctrine, scientific research backs up the benefits of self-forgiveness.
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. M.F.T., said, “Acknowledge that not everyone is self-aware or empathetic enough to admit they’ve done something wrong. Appreciate that you’re the kind of person who can recognize your faults and mistakes and say, ‘I did this; I am responsible.’ You’ve done something wrong, yes, but at your core, you are a good person” (“When Forgiving Yourself Is the Hardest Kind of Forgiveness,” Psychology Today, Oct. 2, 2017, psychologytoday.com).
Essentially, she is saying that feeling sorry is a good indicator of our character. However, she is quick to point out that “no benefit or good can come from keeping yourself stuck in the disempowering pattern of self-punishment. Punishing yourself doesn’t serve anyone. To serve others and make your own life better, you must forgive yourself.”
If you want to learn more about forgiveness and the role of Jesus Christ, we invite you to meet with Church representatives.
Forgiving yourself is tough. Sometimes, it can be even harder than forgiving someone else. While learning to acknowledge errors and move forward can be difficult, the more you do it the easier it becomes.
Knowing how to forgive yourself is important because it fosters a healthy self-esteem and helps you feel comfortable forgiving others, too. Denying forgiveness leaves you stuck in the past and can lead to feeling depressed about former mistakes and anxious about future ones.
Practice the art of forgiveness with these steps so you can dwell in the present and grow in self-worth.
1. Acknowledge your mistake
There is no one who is harder on you than yourself. So often we beat ourselves up over small issues, and even the big mistakes we blow out of proportion. Generally, we spend much more time thinking about our faults than anyone else does.
It shouldn’t be too hard to pinpoint where we feel we messed up. The issue tends to be overthinking our mistakes. However, it is important to acknowledge specifically what the mistakes were so we can move on and find healing.
2. Identify negative thoughts that follow
We all mess up sometimes. While our mistakes can leave us feeling foolish in the moment, if we don’t notice these thoughts they can linger and affect our self-image. In order to actually forgive ourselves it’s important to identify negative self-talk and stop it in its tracks.
While the mistakes we make might be easy to recognize because we can see them play out, the thoughts that result might happen out of habit so they’re harder to notice. These thoughts might be “I knew I couldn’t do it” or “I always make stupid mistakes.” Negative thinking can be even more damaging than our actual errors, so make sure to identify the self-talk that follows and forgive yourself for that, too.
3. Practice positive self-talk
While this step can happen at any point in the process, it flows from identifying and changing negative self-talk. In order to truly reverse harmful thoughts it can be helpful to replace them with positive messages. The next time you make an error, try saying one of the following affirmations to yourself.
- I’m new at this, it will take time to get it right
- I’m usually good at this, it’s OK to have off days
- I’ve made mistakes before and grown from them
- All of the mistakes are proof of my hard work
- This is part of the learning process
- I am brave to keep trying
When you learn to focus on affirmation instead of criticism, you’ll grow in confidence and self-respect and be more prone to lift up others, too.
4. Build a ritual of forgiveness
Learning how to forgive yourself is a healthy habit that becomes easier the more frequently you do it. That’s not to say you should be making mistakes intentionally just for practice, but if you continue to work at it, forgiveness will come more easily.
Many people find healing in writing out their offenses. Discarding the paper afterwards can be especially gratifying (try burying or burning it, just be safe) . Having a visual image of your mistakes being washed away can be a beautiful symbol as you learn to forgive yourself.
Try making it a ritual to say out loud “I forgive myself.” Verbalizing forgiveness and actually hearing it can make it more tangible. Getting the words out can be especially helpful in healing from past wounds.
For many people, forgiveness is a spiritual exercise. If you practice a faith, consider what opportunities are already available for you to take advantage of.
Every error is an opportunity for growth. Life could be defined as the process of making mistakes and growing from them, so don’t waste the opportunity to learn a lesson. Even the smallest mess-up can teach us something as long as we’re looking for chances to make change in the future.
When you find yourself needing forgiveness, consider brainstorming one or two concrete ways you can make amends and improve for the future. Growing through adversity can help you build self-worth and live your life to the fullest.
6. Get support in the process
Learning to forgive yourself can surely heal past wounds, but sometimes we need help in the journey. It can be difficult to process events on our own and therapy or counseling can provide guidance as we navigate understanding and growing from our mistakes.
If getting support in the healing process sounds like something that could benefit you and your mental health, Mazzitti & Sullivan can help. At Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling you’ll feel welcomed and cared for. Take a step towards building your self-worth by calling 800-809-2925 today.