To Forgive Ourselves or Not, That is the Question



The reality of life is such that there are many opportunities for us to transgress and offend others in a way that is contrary even to our own values that leads to feelings of guilt and shame. While there are some benefits of self-forgiveness that we may partake of, how we go about forgiving ourselves can also impact our relationships with others. So what is self-forgiveness and what are some concerns regarding it? What are some of the benefits of forgiving ourselves? What are some considerations to think of when forgiving ourselves? Where can we go if we would like to seek help with forgiving ourselves?


What are some of the benefits of forgiving ourselves and what are some things we should consider regarding it?

One definition of self-forgiveness in the research field describes self-forgiveness as a coping strategy that reduces negative, and increases positive, thoughts, emotions, motivations, and behaviors pertaining to ourselves. It also involves the repair of any damage to our sense of self to reduce negative emotions we may feel when we feel like we have not lived up to our own beliefs and values.


However, there are also some concerns by researchers in the psychological field that forgiving ourselves too easily, without feeling the negative emotions (for example, feelings of guilt), and motivation to take proper responsibility and accountability for our wrong-doings may result in us bypassing the crucial processes in making amends to those we have wronged, and (possibly) restoring relationships.


What are some of the benefits of forgiving ourselves?

While the research for forgiving ourselves is not as plentiful as the research covering how we forgive others, there are enough studies to establish some links between forgiving ourselves and our sense of well-being. Multiple studies spread across a total of over five thousand people have suggested a link between forgiving ourselves, and having better physical health in general. It does not stop there, multiple studies spread across a total of close to eighteen thousand people have suggested strong links between forgiving ourselves and having better mental well-being as well. This sense of mental well-being in the context of those studies meant less depression and anxiety, and better life satisfaction, and general mental health.


What are some considerations to think of when forgiving ourselves?

If we are engaging in behaviors that are compulsive behaviors (that are probably destructive to ourselves and/or others), it seems that forgiving ourselves not too quickly, and only after we have made amends with those we have wronged, and after encouragement from those we have let down seems to lead to the best outcomes. Otherwise, we may just continue engaging in our destructive behaviors which usually may not end well for us or those around us.


However, this changes if we consider ourselves to be in a relationship with someone who tends to be manipulative with us. If we have wronged someone we consider to be manipulative, it may be best to quickly forgive ourselves, with or without making amends. This is especially since the manipulative person we have wronged, may make use of our desire to make amends, and hold us in ransom to him or her for his or her purposes.


Where can we go if we would like to seek help with forgiving ourselves?

The Psychological Services Center (PSC) of Regent University is one place we can consider going to if we would like a clinician to walk with us in our journey towards forgiveness. There are also ways we can enhance our tendency to forgive ourselves facilitated by a trained clinician to help us increase our level of forgiveness towards ourselves, if that is what we would like, in a way that is suitable for our specific circumstances.


The clinicians there will always do their best to seek to understand our experiences and partner with us in understanding our experiences to help us to forgive ourselves - in a way that would be helpful to us, and benefit us.


For some, the act of forgiving can be seen as religious due to the command to forgive in Christian doctrine. If it is important for us to seek help to forgive in a religiously integrated manner, it should be discussed with our clinician at the start of treatment as to what that could potentially look like for us. Clinicians at the PSC of Regent University are trained to provide religiously sensitive services.


To forgive ourselves or not, that is the question.


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