I met a 72 year old lady who could not talk about her past without crying. In her youth, she was a heroin addict. She could not keep a job. She spent more time in jail than at home. Her behavior aggravated her family and friends so much that they wanted nothing to do with her. She was in a very dark place but she found God. God spared her life.
Today, her situation is different. She reconnected with the child taken from her in the midst of her addiction. She has loving, positive relationships with her family. She opens her home to others in need and shares freely with them. But the challenge she faces today may be greater than the dragon of addiction which she slayed more than 40 years ago. Today’s challenge is self-forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an emotional and mental state. Forgiveness is the process of releasing negative feelings such as pain, hurt, guilt, shame, anger, bitterness and sadness. Forgiveness involves giving yourself permission to stop reliving the past and asking the proverbial question, “what if”. To forgive includes making peace with imperfections. But guilt and shame make self-forgiveness more challenging than forgiving others.
Self-forgiveness begins by acknowledging that it is up to you to choose to forgive.
Here are steps to self-forgiveness:
Identify the hurt.
Verbally state, “I forgive myself.”
Resolve to start anew.
Do not berate yourself if negative feelings return.
Do not beat yourself up dwelling upon your imperfections.
Become aware of your thoughts. When necessary, redirect your thoughts from the past towards being peaceful in the present.
Realize that you have more control over the future than the past. Accepting that the past cannot be changed does not mean that the past is irrelevant or must be forgotten or even that all of your pain will come to an end. Taking control of the future affirms that by God’s grace you have the ability to stand while you are in pain. You can and will learn positive lessons from the past.
Write a journal. Writing about the situation may help you put things in perspective.
Love yourself. Periodically hug yourself and say, “I love you”.
Seek professional help from a licensed healthcare provider or clergy trained in counseling.
Pray over yourself.
Put your hand in God’s and resolve to move forward. Walk with Him on a journey of self-forgiveness. Know that when memories become too painful, God is with you. Commit yourself to just keep walking and trusting in the Lord.
Acknowledge that forgiveness takes time. Don’t give up.