Saturday, February 25, 2017

How to Forgive Yourself

My feet, in Hockeytown Restaurant, Detroit

I'm thinking again of the inmate at Mansfield (Ohio) State Correctional Center who asked me to pray for him because he could not forgive himself for killing his parents.

One reason that request affected me so much is that I have, in my own moral and spiritual failure, sometimes felt unable to forgive myself. I meet many people plagued by the hell-designed incapacity to self-forgive. How can we do this?

Everett Worthington says that "repentance and humility are at the core of breaking free from self-blame." (Worthington, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past, p. 76) To be repentant and humble people need to do three things:


  1. Accept responsibility for their wrongdoing.
  2. Feel and show regret and remorse for what they did.
  3. Realize that making up for the wrongdoing and repairing the relationships damaged by the wrongdoing is going to be costly in time, effort, and self-sacrifice. (In Ib., 77)
Failure to accept responsibility "shoots forgiveness in the foot - and makes it difficult for the one we harmed to forgive us as well." (Ib.)

Conversely, three things render self-forgiveness impossible:
  1. Acting like a victim, and blaming others for your wrongdoing.
  2. Showing little or no remorse for what you did.
  3. Expecting that repairing the damaged relationships will be a quick fix (which often leads to blaming others for their "inability to forgive"). (Like: "Aren't you over this yet?")