Letting go of guilt is one of the hardest things we?ll ever do
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash
At some point in everyone?s life, there will come a time for self-forgiveness. A time when you?ve apologized and course corrected, and you recognize your past mistakes, yet you?re still living with the weight, the guilt, and the fear that someone might discover you weren?t always the person you are today.
You might find yourself seeking validation and affirmation that you are, indeed, a respectable and lovable person. What you?re actually looking for is forgiveness?and not from anyone but yourself.
Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest things we will ever do. This is not because we are masochists hell-bent on torturing ourselves to repay karmic debts, but because true self-forgiveness means admitting we were wrong, and recognizing that there is a better way.
That?s hard enough, but there?s another layer as well: We hold onto guilt as a constant ?reminder? not to make the same mistake again. Our guilt is a sign we have not truly learned our lesson.
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You don?t resist self-forgiveness because you think you deserve more pain. Rather, you resist self-forgiveness because you are scared that if you let go, you will end up right back in the same place you were before.
Here?s what you must understand in order to truly let go.
Your guilt is not inherently bad
In fact, guilt is a sign that you care about others. People without a real moral compass don?t think twice about hurting someone else ? or at the very least, they justify doing so while feeling very little empathy.
In other words, your feelings of guilt ? and your resistance to letting go ? mean you?re not as bad as you think you are.
There are many malicious people in the world who feel not a shred of remorse for their behaviors. The fact that you do is not a bad thing.
Forgiving yourself is not the same as excusing yourself
Holding onto guilt serves nobody ? least of all you. That guilt does not change your past or your future. It simply saddles you with heaviness, preventing you from being present and taking real action to change your life and your behavior.
The past cannot come back to haunt you unless you carry the past with you.
When you learn the lesson, you can let go of the guilt.
When you know what you did and why, it will be easier to stop ruminating.
When you have a plan for the next time you?re triggered in a certain way, you?ll worry less.
When you actually change your behavior, you?ll stop fearing that the past will repeat itself because you will know it won?t.
Forgiving yourself is not the same as excusing yourself. It?s changing yourself so that you can move on in a healthier, happier way. The past cannot come back to haunt you unless you carry the past with you.
Everyone is the villain of someone?s story
You have been the villain of someone?s story. You have also been the hero. This is true of all of us at different points in our lives.
We are all victims, heroes, villains, saviors, good, bad, right, and wrong. It depends on context, it depends on experience, and mostly, it depends on how we choose to respond to events in our lives.
Recognizing that absolutely nobody is perfect and everybody has made mistakes does not excuse you from your own, but it does help relieve a degree of the fear that you, alone, are somehow defective. You aren?t.
Your less-than-ideal behaviors came from misunderstanding, a simple lack of knowledge, not knowing how to be self-aware, and not recognizing someone else?s feelings. Most of all, those behaviors stemmed from your own pain, and your desire to escape that pain.
The point is not to sit around feeling bad that you weren?t your best self. The point is to get up, get to work, and start improving day by day.
That work often begins with a willingness to forgive.