Monday, January 05, 2015

Self-Forgiveness and Liberation From the Past - #2 - Why Self-forgiveness Is Hard

Monroe County sunrise
In my first post from Everett Worthington's book Moving Forward I looked at the benefits of self-forgiveness. Now I'll consider what makes forgiving ourselves so difficult.

Worthington says there are two kinds of self-forgiveness: decisional self-forgiveness, and emotional self-forgiveness. In the first you will no longer seek retaliation against yourself. You will choose to not punish yourself for past failings. Instead, you choose to value yourself. In emotional self-forgiveness you replace negative, unforgiving emotions with positive emotions toward yourself. "It is emotional self-forgiveness that cools the heat of anger in your heart; it’s what Corrie ten Boom referred to as “the temperature of the heart .” The emotions that we use to replace negative, unforgiving emotions are empathy, sympathy, compassion, and love for ourselves." (Worthington, p. 52) Why are these things so difficult to do?

Worthington cites studies showing that forgiving yourself is different from forgiving others. It is harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others. Worthington writes:

"When you attempt to forgive someone else for an offense, you are adopting the viewpoint of the forgiver. The wrongdoer, of course, is someone other than yourself. However, when you try to forgive yourself, you have to operate from two points of view— both forgiver and wrongdoer. Holding contrasting points of view at the same time is a strain. It is hard to bounce back and forth from one perspective to the other." (Ib., p. 54)

In forgiving someone else we are not with them (for the most part) 24/7. But we are with our own selves  and thoughts all the time. We can't get away from ourselves. This can make forgiving ourselves harder than forgiving others.

Worthington says self-forgiveness is harder because we have "insider information"; i.e., we have information about who we really are. "The fact is, we know too much about ourselves. We know that we are capable of repeating the same wrong even when we know how hurtful it is. We also know that, as much as we profess love for God, we are like Paul who wrote: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7: 15). That is, we know the weakness of our will to do the right thing." (Ib., 55)

Self-forgiveness is different and in some ways harder than other-forgiveness because:

1. We live with ourselves 24/7. That is, we live constantly with the one who has hurt us, which is us.

2. We have insider information about our own self that we cannot have when it comes to others.