By Brad Hoefs:

When your brain is not functioning properly, it certainly affects your behavior, which then affects your relationship with others. Those of us with a mental health issue can end up hurting a lot of people that we love. Whether it’s through our words or because of something we have done, those closest to us are left wounded.

Those who have been hurt will either forgive us and give us another chance, forgive us but no longer be in the relationship or choose not to forgive us and leave us. And we end up feeling the deep pain our behavior(s) have caused for them and ourselves. It is at this point that we have a critical choice to make; whether we will forgive ourselves or not.

Even if others will not forgive us, it is important for us to take responsibility for any of our hurtful behaviors; asking for forgiveness and then choosing to forgive ourselves. If we do not, we end up getting stuck and unable to move forward in living well. Everyone gets stuck at times. But, staying stuck is not okay. Thus, being able to forgive yourself is an essential component of living well in spite of having a mood disorder.

These are some of the insights I offer to you about “how” to forgive yourself so that you can move forward in living well:

1. Come to this realization: no matter how hard you try, you cannot change what has happened. You can only learn from it, grow from it and move forward. Accept what happened.

2. Take responsibility for what you did and the pain it caused others, asking them for forgiveness. Even if they choose not to forgive you; you must forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself cannot be contingent upon them forgiving you. Remember, them forgiving you is going to be a process, it’s not like switching on or off a light switch, just as forgiving yourself is going to be a process.

3. If you are a person of faith, then ask God, your higher power, for forgiveness. If it is within your faith tradition to go to the clergy and confess to him or her what has happened, then I would encourage you to consider doing that. Sometimes we need to hear out loud from someone in spiritual authority that God has forgiven us.

If God forgives us (and He does), who are we to refuse to forgive ourselves? God sets the example for us. So be kind to yourself, just as you would be to a close friend.

4. Decide to stop rehearsing over and over in your head what has happened. Rehearsing it will not change it. Rehearsing over and over is a way abusing yourself for what you did or didn’t do. Decide that you will stop allowing the rehearsal of it in your head. Yes, it’s tough to do. But, it is possible. You and I can be in charge of what we think about in our thought life. At first, it will feel as though it is next to impossible to do. With time, it will get a bit easier.

To stop rehearsing over and over what I had done that had hurt so many people in my life, I disciplined myself to have two times a day where I would think about it and grieve it. I promised myself that I would only spend 20 minutes each time. During this period, I wrote what I was thinking down in a journal. At the end of that time, I always spent time in prayer and reading some carefully selected scriptures from the Bible.

Wallowing in what happened will get you nowhere. Allow those few times a day to do this and then get on with your day. Don’t sit around letting your mind “wander around” on its own. Take charge. As you do this, it will get easier.

5. With my therapist, I began to work through any emotional issues that I had that were being exacerbated by my mood disorder, that I could work through in the hopes that it would give me a breakthrough in any of my dysfunctional behaviors that were harmful to my relationships with others. Too often you and I think we behave a “certain way” because of our mood disorder. However, more times than not, much of our behaviors happen due to emotional issues that we have yet to resolve, and the mood disorder merely intensifies those issues. Plus, if you and I are not stable, we can have great difficulties with impulse control. So, in my thinking, it is imperative for you and me to be working through as many emotional issues and any of the dysfunctional ways of being in relationships as possible.

One of the emotional issues that I had to work through was not to hate myself. I did not like myself at all. I had a very critical parent tape playing over and over in my head. I had to erase that tape. And create a new healthy adult tape. It took time. It was a process. And even yet today, some 20 years later, that critical parent tape plays just a bit here and there, but I stop listening to it rather quickly.

These things helped me to forgive myself. I hope that some of them might be helpful to you. It is a day- by-day process, but you can do it. Remember, if you tell yourself, “I can’t forgive myself for that,” then you won’t forgive yourself, and you will stay stuck at that point. If you choose not to forgive yourself, then you will not move forward in living well. Without forgiving one another, where would we all be? We live in a broken world that necessitates forgiving one another and forgiving ourselves.

How about you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Have you forgiven yourself? If so, how did you go about it?  (We encourage you to leave a comment or question!)

Check out Brad’s podcast: Fresh Hope for Mental Health

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2 thoughts on “5 Insights on Forgiving Yourself

  1. I believed in Christ all confessed was forgiven and starting over in him fresh where was doing as he desired seeking him loving others as he would many times and did best could returning. Had failed him ways never thought capable of with. Went back with ex husband because couldn’t get undepress and life answers even with church and mixed up did best could and he wanted get back loved me and wanted normal lif me help him, wanted school,family church etc right things supposedly. Lieing me. Had left me before,–no loved me he said. I had not dealt well with singleness appropriately and sinned bad despite a christian and trying go church and was barely affording live despite working taking care sick hospital and loved but not getting along mother and relentlessly depressed not having been able have,afford acheivements and education or have enough all area smarts to do so and not handling single again sinning bad but at that time honest to him wanteddifferent things out life and too different although in ways forms love there. waso honest with him that time but said didn’t mean wrong him or me justnot match. He lied a lot . We saw one another went church together lied again also re his desires what we were going do that neveer did and did opposite because at firstly and each had said we are what we are and says nothing bad about us that not meant be together and due to lack of anything real,real counsel or help at church and based on false beliefs re divorce and god could fix anything and believing this would fix it and god could as we went church committed to what was said with fooled myself into thinking was brotherly love plus other kinds zwe were still married gods eyes and could have christian and blessed normal marriage enough faith etc. We’ll only lasted few months and he backwards quit church and drank more and more and couldn’t help payhus share billsoreork regular or go to college like said . my own false thinking encouraged by churchesle god would rather I be married him or be single,. Finally after while I wanted him leave so I could be free of it and prayed for this or lord change things radically and turned it over willing completely be single rest life was alone him gone though married and in terribly stressful situation, He did tell me later no love was honest re what did not want in life ever and wanted me go on with life and not lie re it any more. This was after christian counselor told me i wasnot obligated give him money cigarettes or etc when would not work regular. Point is I knew he was not what really wanted for husbandfirsg timeanot really loving him when married him but first person ever with closely and messed up though knew better thando it. However at point trying be strong in Christ and do right thing but upset because did not face being alone again but knew from former bible study very wrong for one another and tried tell mother this. My mother didn’t have good counsel or sense re things much anyway and lot turmoil there at home. Father didn’t either but both had some very loving good qualities also. She never understood or liked much past early years. Wouldnt leave ut alone and was weak,but my actions,poor,wrong,best could do with circumstances and even my aunt nogood insight re how was. He smoked pot and not going church. PresentChurch counsel had not given me any answers to life or helped and theywere all economically out of above our level and so unaware how life was and I wanted to and prayed to fit in and wanted stay in church. Mother was angry critical hateful and living at same time and father lied hadlost money gambling was truely sick with legs and unable work anf talking real nice and lieing a lot at same time and both causing brother lot mother insisted he come talk to me and get back together and then I was eeak and did so snd was all doenhill

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