We’ve all done it. We hurt someone. We did something wrong. And we feel guilty. We beat ourselves up.
Sometimes, it can be hard to forgive yourself for a transgression, but giving to others can help you restore your belief that you are a good and decent person worthy of forgiveness and love.
3 Steps To Forgiveness
- First, acknowledge you’ve done something wrong.
You may find that writing about or praying about your wrong is sufficient. Or you may need to make this acknowledgement directly to the person you’ve wronged or publicly. Acknowledging your wrong in public may be easier if you can share it with supportive people such as in a church group (or other spiritual gathering) or a recovery meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon) or even just a very supportive friend.
- Second, change yourself or your life so that you won’t commit that same sort of transgression again.
What were the circumstances that led this transgression? Will those same circumstances happen again? If so, change. You may need to change your life (such as leaving an abusive relationship) or you may need to change yourself (quitting drinking or learning to handle stress or express emotion more appropriately).
Often, you’ll need to do a little bit of both.
- Third, give.
If possible, give unconditionally– without expectation of return– to the person you’ve hurt. Without expectation of return is critical, because the person who has been hurt by your actions will be checking to see if you really mean it. They may not trust you. They may be waiting for you to go back to your old ways. And that’s ok. You can’t control how they will react. But you can give. And if you give to them with love and respect for them and their needs (this is also critical, you must give what they need in the way the need it), you are doing what you can to rectify the situation.
You must also give to others. Now is the time to create a network of people who see the good in you and who see the good work you do. This is critical, because you are creating the positive self-reaffirmations and support from others that you need to accept that, despite your past, you are a good and decent person worthy of forgiveness and love.
Self-forgiveness is not easy, and it doesn’t happen over night. Nor should you expect to reach a magical place where you never feel bad again.
Feeling guilty is a terrible way to go through life. Give, because it can help you find self-forgiveness.