Sharon A. Hartman, LSW, a clinical trainer at the Caron Foundation
"We all screw up sometime. Forgiving ourselves is as close as we come to a system reset button."
"If you haven't forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others? "
- Dolores Huerta
You may sometimes do things that bring you shame. Some people hang on to this shame to such an extent that they harm themselves or get sick from the shame. Your peace of mind is worth more than money. When you loose this important asset, your mental and physical health suffers. The ability to forgive yourself is a potent source of healing for you. You may be quick to forgive someone than yourself. However, to be able to forgive someone, you should be able to forgive yourself. This is because when someone hurts you, your natural inclination is to see the offender pay for the harm he caused you. If you hang on to seeking revenge, you suffer yourself. To forgive an offender, you have to let go of the quest for revenge.
As an obstetrician gynecologist, I have had a delivery that did not go well. I have also had complications at surgery. In these cases, the soul searching goes on. I ask myself whether I could have done something to help prevent the unfortunate situation. Most of the time there is nothing I could have done. In some cases, if I had done some things slightly differently, I could have had a better outcome. To be able to continue working, I forgive myself so I can heal and have the courage to continue to save lives and heal the sick.
Forgiving myself is not enough unless I address the deficiency that could prevent further problems. Therein lies attending more courses, searching the literature for answers, discussing with colleagues who have faced these problems before, and finding ways that may improve my skills to better serve my patients. To forgive yourself, these are some of the qualities that may help:
- Acknowledge the hurt. If it is a flaw in your character, recognize it and forgive yourself. If you are an alcoholic father who is spending all your money on booze and starving your family, then you have a choice of looking at your character flaw, forgiving yourself and walking away from this unhealthy behavior and getting your family back. By forgiving yourself and coming face to face with your demons, you may be able to walk away from your addiction and save your family.
- Sometimes after forgiving yourself, you may need help. For example, if you are an alcoholic, you may seek counseling and join the Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Commit to change because it is easy to slip back into your old ways.
- To change a negative habit you need to replace it with something positive. Remember, you may slip back many times, however if you commit to change, the change will come. You will be like the little girl who is learning to ride a bicycle. She falls down many times and starts bleeding from her bruises. She however forgives herself and jumps right back on the bicycle and tries again until one day she rides with a smile on her face with her scars as her badge of courage, self forgiveness and determination to succeed at all cost.
- In these stressful situations, spirituality helps. Spirituality will give you the spine, peace of mind and hope to carry on with your search for change when all else seem bleak.