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From guilt to self-forgiveness – Part 3

Ways to forgive yourself

The first step is to recognize that guilt is good; it’s often a catalyst for positive change. Shame means you own up the mistake and there’s something to forgive. Also, it ensures we don’t justify bad behavior or get brazen.

The most valuable gain from feelings of remorse is it helps us question and re-determine our values. If you feel shame, ask a simple question: is my pain because others are upset or have I betrayed my principles? If it’s the former, we may address the issue only superficially; we’ll be more interested to gain others’ approval than to improve. But if our pain stems from a slip of my standards, sincere regret would be a good trigger for self-improvement.

Instead of making your life better, if contrition leads to further rumination of how terrible you are, then your shame is disproportionate or persistent. You now need to affirm: ‘I now release all guilt and accept myself just the way I am. I love myself, and I forgive myself.’ Slow and repetitive assertions- with emotions invested in them- helps us enter the forgiveness space.

Imagine a person you love profoundly has made a terrible mistake and is genuinely repentant of what she has done. How would you take care of her? Would you tell her, ‘it’s okay, relax…you are much more than this mistake….you need to move beyond this… you are a wonderful person..’ That’s what you need to hear now-from yourself! A life of self-criticism means, like Kaikeyi who banished her beloved Rama to the forest, we send our godliness to exile. It’s an unhappy life. And let’s change it now for good.
Secondly, we need to recognize that our slip-ups happened in the past and you can always begin anew now. Life is lived in the present and for the future. We learn from history but don’t live there. Forgiveness ensures that although we can’t change our past mistakes, our future opens up to new possibilities.

Thirdly, list down the good-positive things you have done in the last one week. Maybe you appreciated a friend for his hard work in school, or you exercised today and learned an interesting melody in your music class. Perhaps you prayed to your God for clemency. Write them down, and connect to your goodness. This will remind you of the deposits of your ‘good’ actions and will neutralize to some extent, the thoughts of your ‘bad’ deeds.

To be continued…

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