Of all of the things related to forgiveness, forgiving yourself can be the hardest thing to do. How do you know when it's time to stop holding yourself as a prisoner for what you did? When is it time to come out of purgatory and start living life fully again?
Here are five things you can do today to help forgive yourself:
1. Practice “Good Guilt”
Bad guilt says, “Look what you did. You're a terrible person.”
Good guilt says, “Look what you did. That was not a good action.”
Bad guilt labels you as a whole person and condemns you for life. Good guilt focuses on the action, leaving you a path to dig out of instead of damning your soul for eternity.
2. Find a Way to Help those You Hurt
What can you do to give support to those who were injured by your actions? It's hard to move forward until you know that you've done what you can to make things better. There are some things that you can never take back or wash away, no matter how much your heart wants to do so. You can't unring a bell. But you can offer help to those you hurt.
Be patient with them when they have a hard day dealing with it. Listen to them calmly. Being calm helps keep the conversation from exploding and allows healing and positive processing to happen. Do small acts of kindness. Flowers and chocolates seem to be standby's for men when they hurt their significant other, but things like giving a card, spending time together, or doing something meaningful for that person can go a long way. In situations where you can't be around the person that you've hurt, volunteering for a closely related cause or getting involved to help prevent others from making the same mistake can help.
3. Practice Your Own Self-care
I preach self-care a lot! Why? Because it makes a difference! The stress of your actions coming out in the open and the pain it opens up for others is physically and mentally exhausting to you, too. Self-care allows you to be present, to be patient with them, to contain negative reactions when you're pushed, and self-care can help you make good decisions as the process continues to unfold. Things like trying to get as much sleep as you can at night, eating throughout the day, taking breaks (especially during difficult conversations), exercising and moving, and even giving yourself permission to not be as productive can all be helpful.
4. Utilize Your Strengths
Everyone has strengths. And even though you have made a mistake, you still have strengths. List those and determine which of those can be of help to you now. If you draw a blank, then ask someone else to help you list your strengths. To take this a step further, think about how this situation can help you take your strengths to a new level.
For instance, if one of your strengths is humor, how can that help the situation? Can you use it to diffuse a tense moment? Laughter is the best medicine, after all. If one of your strengths is baking, how can that be helpful? Can you get out some anger by cracking eggs and making an angel food cake? Could you invite the person you hurt to spend some time with you in the kitchen, giving both of you an opportunity to connect and work together in a positive way?
5. Activate Your Support System
“A real friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Life is not meant to be lived alone. Humans need connection, and that connection is all about providing support during the good days and the bad. Though you may find out who is indeed a friend and who is an acquaintance, you will also find out who is a good friend and who is a great friend during a time like this.
Allow your friends to be there for you. They can be a shoulder while you cry. They can make sure you eat when you don't think you can keep it down. They can listen and cry with you. They can even give you a stern talking to that gives you the courage and energy to do the things you aren't sure you can do. After all, that's what friends are for, right?
The road to forgiveness can seem long and even endless at times. It can be lonely and dark and full of surprises- both good and bad.
“Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Michael Jordan
Despite how it may feel today, there is a way out, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep going, even when you don't feel like it. Don't stop believing, even when it seems like all is lost. When you are truly honest with yourself, and if you allow the forgiveness process to work, great things can happen- even miracles you didn't think were possible.
“Tough times don't last, tough people do.”