Shame is the cancer of the psyche. It eats away at us slowly, tainting everything we experience with its dark glow of self-loathing. And it all stems from a lack of self-forgiveness.
Have you ever said, done, or thought something truly horrible?
Have you ever:
- betrayed someone you loved
- overstepped a boundary you thought you’d never cross, or
- intentionally inflicted harm upon yourself (or another)?
If you’re human, I can guarantee that you’ll say an almost immediate yes.
And don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have all been there to differing degrees. You’re not a monster, you’re just a flawed and wounded human being.
While I’m not here to excuse anything you’ve done (self-responsibility is crucial), I am here to be a voice of compassion. Hating yourself won’t make anything better.
It’s time for some self-forgiveness.
What is Self-Forgiveness?
Self-forgiveness is the practice of forgiving yourself of past wrongdoings. It involves changing your perception of yourself and what happened through the eyes of self-compassion and self-understanding. By understanding the deeper mechanics of why you did what you did, and holding yourself in the embrace of self-love, you can let go, move on, and feel free again.
Actions That Make us Feel Guilt and Shame (Examples)
While we can sometimes feel haunted by a thought or intention we’ve secretly carried (once or many times), generally we feel most deeply impacted by what we’ve done.
Here are some examples of actions that cause us guilt and shame:
- Bullying someone
- Getting an abortion
- Cheating on your partner
- Physically hurting a loved one
- Gossiping and/or spreading rumors
- Destroying other’s property
And of course, there are more extreme cases out there that range from molestation to murder. (Clearly, this article isn’t approving such actions, or giving you a get out of jail free card – it’s simply focusing on the other side of the journey: self-forgiveness.)
The Dark Side of Self-Condemnation
It’s vital to have a certain level of guilt/shame after hurting ourselves or someone else. Without guilt, we would sociopathically ignore the impact of our behavior. (And can you imagine what society would be like if no one felt bad about what they’d done? We’d be living in a non-stop apocalypse.)
But guilt and shame become toxic when they begin to fester within us; when we can’t let go of what we’ve done or move on. Picture a stagnant pool of water – that’s what a lack of self-forgiveness feels like. There is no growth, no movement, no freshness, no life inside, only the same old rancid sludge of self-hating thoughts.
In fact, when we carry toxic guilt and shame, we tend to create a negative and unrealistic image of ourselves in our minds. Such dark self-images sadly tend to create self-fulfilling prophecies or negative feedback loops. In other words, if we carry the negative core belief that we’re a cheating scumbag who doesn’t have an ounce of loyalty within us, we may perpetuate that same behavior in our next relationship.
8 Benefits of Self-Forgiveness
To prevent the same old mistakes from happening, learning how to forgive ourselves is crucial. In other words, self-forgiveness gives us a new lease on life, it frees us to grow, change, and transform in positive ways. Sometimes, it inspires us to help others in similar circumstances that we once experienced (or inflicted).