Guilt, shame and forgiveness

Let me tell you how forgiveness changed my life and can change yours too. More specifically, how forgiving myself changed my life. I used to be someone with a huge guilt complex – ask my close friends, they will tell you the same. Along with that, I was also a huge people pleaser, I held the fear of disappointing others. God forbid I let anyone down, I would feel guilty for months, in some situations, for years. I wasn’t at peace with myself – tossing and turning, thinking of what I would give to go back, what I would have said and done differently.

I have wasted hours deconstructing scenarios from the past and dwelling on feelings of guilt and shame within my own actions. There came a certain opening though. An opening where I realized that I didn’t want to live that way. I didn’t want to be consumed with the thought of “what if I did this instead” or “what if I had said…”. I was ready to live in the present, I no longer wanted to be in a state of turmoil and distress. I shifted my focus to begin healing from guilt and shame by simply forgiving myself.

We usually associate forgiveness with something we provide to others to assist them to heal and move on. But what if we provided forgiveness to ourselves and allowed it to guide and assist our healing process?

When we do wrong, such as, lie, steal, cheat – we often look to the person we hurt to ask for forgiveness. Apologizing profusely and hoping that they will say it’s okay. But what if we forgive ourselves? Isn’t the opinion of myself the only one that really matters? I think so.

I do believe that people should face consequences – but what greater consequence is there than the guilt and shame of pursuing a bad action in itself? The consequence of losing friends or losing someone else’s trust etc. is really nominal when one is distressed in guilt and shame. If guilt and shame is what I believe to be the greatest consequence to my wrongdoings then isn’t it in my power to forgive myself and move on from my past?

Friends, trust, and the other things lost along the way will return as long as we learn from our mistakes and make peace with the past through the act of forgiving ourselves.

When others do wrong to us, we should also forgive. Instead of dwelling on the “why me?” complex, or, even worse, seeking revenge. What is there to gain from holding a grudge? What is there to gain from complaining or spreading obscene language and stories about the person who wrongs us?

Aren’t we all just navigating the human experience? Are we so perfect in our actions that we cannot understand and empathize with the wrongdoings of others?

Think about this passage the next time you are filled with feelings of guilt and shame, and likewise when you are filled with feelings of seeking revenge. Say it out loud right now, “I love you and I forgive you” – this may be directed to yourself or to someone else. If you are holding on to grudges or guilty feelings from your own past actions, I urge you to take small steps towards letting go and forgiving. Take control of the things that are within your power – such as, forgiveness.

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