Self-Forgiveness and Healing

Feeling guilty or ashamed about something we have done can sometimes make us feel critical of ourselves and lead to depression. 

Self-criticism, embarrassment, and shame also make it harder for us to initiate steps that might repair our broken relationship.

The opposite of self-criticism is self-forgiveness. 

 Photo by  Riya Goel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Riya Goel on Unsplash

When we have done something we regret we know we would feel better if the other person or people involved could forgive us for our actions. 

What many people don't realize, however, is that we have to forgive ourselves before we can effectively ask others for exoneration. 

Self-forgiveness, perhaps counter-intuitively, actually makes it easier for us to ask another person to forgive us

Researchers recently studied this phenomenon by comparing therapy processes that included a self-compassion component with therapies that did not. 

Their study found that helping individuals forgive themselves leads to improved therapeutic outcomes and improved client well being.


So, How do I Practice Self-Forgiveness in My Life?

Cornish and Wade developed a process model called "The 4 R's" that lead to self forgiveness.

  1. Responsibility describes taking ownership of the hurt inflicted upon others, recognizing the pain this has caused others, and avoiding the tendency to minimize or explain away the offense.
  2. Remorse often naturally follows responsibility, but instead of drowning in self-condemnation Cornish and Wade suggest shifting guilt and remorse towards the positive step of restoration.
  3. Restoration offers a turning point for the individual via efforts to repair the damage caused by the offense and to reconnect to one's values violated by the offense.
  4. Renewal involves a release of self-condemnation that is replaced by self-respect, self-compassion, and self-acceptance. (p. 2)

Often in conflicts with others we attempt to explain away our actions or minimize the effects of damage to other people. 

Self-forgiveness begins with admitting our mistake and the damage we have caused. 

In the process of acknowledging the hurt we've caused, we will likely start to feel remorse.

The trick, according to these authors, is to focus on restoration and renewal.


If you're feeling guilty or ashamed and want to learn more about self-compassion and its benefits for people with depression and anxiety, then I hope you'll contact me.

I'd love to help you out.