The ability to forgive oneself for mistakes, large and small, is critical to psychological well-being. Difficulties with self-forgiveness are linked with suicide attempts, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among other problems. But self-forgiveness has a dark side. Research suggests that while it can relieve unpleasant feelings like guilt and shame, it can also reduce empathy for others and motivation to make amends. In other words, self-forgiveness may at times serve as a crutch, producing a comforting sense of moral righteousness rather than a motivating sense of moral responsibility. Just as you probably wouldn’t forgive someone else until they make it up to you in some way, forgiving yourself may be most beneficial when you feel like you’ve actually earned it. So how do you know when you’ve adequately paid your dues? In some cases, it’s obvious what needs to be done (e.g., if you borrow your friend’s favorite sweater and lose it, you would probably want to find a way to replace it, at minimum), but in other cases the criteria for making amends may be less clear. Receiving forgiveness from others can help facilitate self-forgiveness, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide when you’ve done enough to right a wrong. Rather than simply going through the motions of atonement, it may be useful to consider what kinds of reparative behaviors will actually make a difference for others, or for your own personal growth. Even certain forms of self-punishment may be useful when motivated by a desire for self-improvement rather than anger at the self, though researchers recommend that such punishment be mild and time-limited, and never physically or psychologically harmful. For example, a teenager who engages in shoplifting and feels remorse might decide to refrain from shopping for three months and instead focus on her schoolwork. Problematically, research has found that self-forgiveness is negatively associated with empathy for victims. As self-forgiveness increases, empathy decreases. This disconnect is understandable: when you’re feeling compassion for the suffering of those you’ve hurt, it’s difficult to also have compassion for the person who caused that suffering. But self-forgiveness is not supposed to be easy, and without incorporating empathy it seems more like a form of avoidance. Importantly, self-forgiveness need not be all-or-nothing. It’s a slow process that may never (and some may argue should never) result in a full release of negative feelings or an exclusively rosy view of oneself. Rather than being a form of self-indulgence, healthy self-forgiveness might be better seen as an act of humility, an honest acknowledgment of our capacity for causing harm as well as our potential for doing good. From an article by Juliana Breines, Ph.D http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201207/the-dangers-self-forgiveness-and-how-avoid-them
To forgive is to set
a prisoner free
that the prisoner
Louis B. Smedes
1) – Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up past failures. None of us is perfect. In marriage we do not always do the right thing. We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our spouses. We cannot erase the past. We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future. Having confessed my failure and asked forgiveness, I can do nothing more to mitigate the hurt it may have caused my spouse. When I have been wronged by my spouse and she has painfully confessed it and requested forgiveness, I have the option of justice or forgiveness. If I choose justice and seek to pay her back or make her pay for her wrongdoing, I am making myself the judge and her the felon. Intimacy becomes impossible. If, however, I choose to forgive, intimacy can be restored. Forgiveness is the way of love. 2) – What is emotional intimacy? It is that deep sense of being connected to one another. It is feeling loved, respected and appreciated, while at the same time seeking to reciprocate. To feel loved is to have the sense that the other person genuinely cares about your well-being. Respect has to do with feeling that your potential spouse has positive regard for your personhood, intellect, abilities and personality. Appreciation is that inner sense that your partner values your contribution to the relationship. Two quotes by Dr. Gary Chapman author of “The Five Love Languages”
We are products
of our past,
but we don’t have
to be prisoners of it.
Vengeance is wanting to make the other person suffer as much or more than the perceived suffering you have felt because of their actions, simply because of what they did to you, and to find pleasure or amusement in their pain because of the way they wronged you. Justice means that the person pays a proper penance for the wrong they have done. They have a moral, and sometimes legal, obligation to try to make things “right” after the wrong they have done. Justice should be fair – vengeance rarely is. We have a right to seek justice – we do not have a moral right to seek revenge. Revenge does damage to you, even if you do not realize it. Justice is simply moral accounting. I realize that moral accounting is already in effect – and justice, as the universe deals it, will be served. Forgiveness means letting go of the pain inside of you, while still allowing you to seek justice served morally or legally. Life moves forward without the weight that holding on to a lost cause brings. Remember, forgiveness is not a gift you give another, but something you do inside of yourself – for yourself. When you look at it this way, forgiveness is possible in any situation, once you are ready to release the pain of the wrongdoing and move on with your life. From “Forgiveness – the Gift You Give Yourself” http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5
Every person has a dark side.
What defines a person
with good character
is not a spotless life
of constant kindness,
smiles and even temperament.
But rather, it’s the yearning
to learn from your mistakes,
applying it, making amends for them
and choosing not to repeat them
that defines good character.
Shannon L. Alder
You can extend forgiveness to those who are no longer living – but you cannot reconcile with them. You can extend forgiveness to someone who is no longer in your life and never will be again, but you cannot reconcile with them. You can extend forgiveness to someone who hurt you or abused you – but you do not have to allow that person in your life again to hurt or abuse you more. Forgiveness sets you free. Forgiveness lets you remove the pain you carry inside of you that you feel was done by another’s wrongdoing. The other person need not admit the wrongdoing. The other person need not make amends. The other person need not do anything. Forgiveness is something done inside of yourself, to release you from the pain of the wrongdoing. Forgiveness releases your need for revenge. Vengeance is counterproductive to healing. Revenge is never as sweet as we believe it will be, and vengeance serves no purpose. When anger subsides, the need for vengeance fades, and any action taken in the name of revenge is action you will probably find you need to forgive yourself for – or will have to ask for forgiveness for, at some point. It is important, however, to understand the difference between justice and vengeance. To forgive, you must let go of your desire for vengeance. However, forgiveness does not mean letting go of your right for justice. From “Forgiveness – the Gift You Give Yourself” http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5
To forgive is to set a prisoner free
and discover that the prisoner was you.
Lewis B. Smedes
Forgiveness doesn’t come automatically – but the party who wronged you does not have to ask for forgiveness for you to give it. The party who wronged you doesn’t even have to admit they made a mistake or did anything that requires forgiving. The party who wronged you doesn’t even have to make amends in order for you to forgive them. Remember, forgiveness is not a gift you give to another, but rather something you do inside of yourself – for yourself. Forgiveness IS a choice – you have to choose to forgive and let go of the pain. Reconciliation and forgiveness are two separate things – they are not mutually exclusive. Forgiving someone does not mean you have to reconcile with that person. If the other person has wronged you so severely that you simply could not trust to allow this person in your life in any capacity – reconciliation is not possible, but forgiveness is. Forgiving doesn’t mean opening yourself back up to be hurt again. Forgiving doesn’t mean allowing the other person’s behavior to continue. For reconciliation – the other person must admit their wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, and then they must take action to prevent that wrongdoing from happening again. Reconciliation requires both you to forgive and the other person to take action. Forgiveness on the other hand doesn’t even require the other person at all. http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5
People have to forgive.
We don’t have to like them,
we don’t have to be friends with them,
we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages,
but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget.
Because if we don’t we are tying rocks to our feet,
too much for our wings to carry!
C. JoyBell C.
Many people seem to have a misunderstanding about what it really means to forgive someone for a wrong done to them. The first thing I want to point out is… forgiveness is NOT a gift you give to another, but rather something you do inside of yourself, for yourself. The other person need never know. You can choose to extend forgiveness to the other person, if that is your choice, but it is not necessary in order to forgive inside of yourself and heal the pain you carry for a wrong another has done to you or that has affected you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation – nor does it mean you have to allow a behavior that can hurt you to continue to hurt you. Forgiveness is, in essence, the acknowledgment inside of yourself that the person who has wronged you in some way is a fallible human being – and that, like a human being, they made a mistake worthy of your forgiveness. …everyone deserves forgiveness inside of themselves, because to hold on to old wounds defeats you as a person. It closes off a part of your heart and self that you cannot give to anyone else as long as you hang on to the anger and bitterness that remains in you when you do not forgive. From “Forgiveness – the Gift You Give Yourself” http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5
The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute
of the strong.
Nursing resentments toward a parent does more than keep that parent in the doghouse. We get stuck there, too, forever the child, the victim, the have-not in the realm of love. Strange as it may seem, a grudge is a kind of clinging, a way of not separating, and when we hold a grudge against a parent, we are clinging not just to the parent, but more specifically to the bad part of the parent. It’s as if we don’t want to live our lives until we have this resolved and feel the security of their unconditional love. We do so for good reasons psychologically. But the result is just the opposite: We stay locked into the badness and we don’t grow up. From May 2003 issue of “O”, the Oprah Magazine
Slide the weight
from your shoulders
and move forward.
You are afraid
you might forget,
but you never will.
You will forgive and remember.