I did something years ago that I feel terrible about. I know I’m not a bad person, but it won’t stop attacking my mind. How do I forgive myself?
(This article is edited and republished from a question I answered on a question and answer site. I chose to start with this as my first post in this site because unforgiveness is a major factor in pain.)
There are four issues here, in your question; so I want to address them separately.
- The thing you did that you feel terrible about.
- Your view of yourself.
- The attack on your mind.
What You Did That You Feel Terrible About.
Usually, when someone feels terrible about something they did, it is because they recognize the affect, whether indirectly or directly; that their actions have had on others.
So I have to congratulate you, because in the world we currently live in, most people are so selfish and self-centered, that they don’t care about how their actions affect others.
Most people these days, feel justified in looking out only for themselves, and as far as everyone else is concerned, it’s “Oh, well. That’s their problem,” or “ That’s their tough luck.” The fact that you seem to have a conscious and moral compass is praiseworthy, and that alone is worth forgiving yourself.
In reality, I don’t really think what you did is the issue, unless it was something illegal because…
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The real issue you need to search yourself about is WHY. Why did you do what you did that you probably knew would have a devastating effect on others; and what would motivate you to ignore their feelings and only focus on your own?
Your View Of Yourself.
In spite of that, you said that you know you are not a bad person. The insinuation that comes with that statement, is that only a bad person does bad or hurtful things. Not true.
Romans 3:10 As the Scriptures say: “There is no one who is righteous,
11 no one who is wise or who worships God.
12 All have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong; no one does what is right, not even one.
Psalm 14:1 Fools say to themselves, “There is no God!” They are all corrupt, and they have done terrible things; there is no one who does what is right.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven at us humans to see if there are any who are wise, any who worship him.
3 But they have all gone wrong; they are all equally bad. Not one of them does what is right, not a single one.
Psalm 53:1 Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They are all corrupt, and they have done terrible things; there is no one who does what is right.
2 God looks down from heaven at people to see if there are any who are wise, any who worship him.
3 But they have all turned away; they are all equally bad. Not one of them does what is right, not a single one.
The reason that this was stated in 3 separate scriptures was to emphasize the point that man’s righteousness is nothing. It’s foolishness, self-righteous and worthless.
Therefore, all of us fall short. All of us mess up, and hopefully, all of us learn from our mistakes and move on, forward and upward. Beating yourself up over it is a total waste of time.
What Can You Do?
What you should be doing is asking yourself if there is something you can do to change the situation for the better. Perhaps forgiving yourself will require a heartfelt letter of apology, explaining whatever madness possessed you at the time when you put yourself above someone else to their detriment.
It’s not wrong to put yourself first, as long as you are considering others. It is only wrong if it is motivated by selfishness and greed. You may have been responding to an old trigger from your past; in which case, I suggest meditation so you can retrain your subconscious mind into forgiving yourself and living in the present with the future in focus.
In other words, try to find some way to give back, even if it’s not to the person(s) affected by your former actions. Sometimes when people are offended, they are not open to any form of communication from the offender, even if it is helpful and loving. You can’t control their reaction, but you can control your actions by finding opportunities to give back.
The Attack On Your Subconscious Mind.
The attack comes from the enemy of man, who is well versed on your triggers. He knows your past so it is easy to click the virtual computer of your mind into opening up an old wound or memory that triggers a certain response.
How You Can Fight Back
This is why meditation, a form of prayer is so important and valuable. It allows you to reprogram your subconscious mind, which is the dominant force behind all of your actions.
Whether you realize it or not, your subconscious mind runs the show. Over 80% of our mind’s functions are originating in our subconscious mind, which dictates to our conscious mind – where we think we have control.
In other words, the conscious mind is where we think we are really in charge. It’s a deception.
Our subconscious mind, if left unchecked and to its own devices, will keep you from forgiving yourself and living in the past. It does this to everyone.
It operates as a stereo system on repeat; running the same tracks and keeping the programme disks of our childhood playing over and over until you change the disk. You can do this by programming your own message disks with whatever you choose, including forgiving yourself.
To clarify, the subconscious mind is like an old library card catalog that has a record of everything. It houses all (the old, negative) memories, and learned patterns and behaviors of our past experiences or upbringing (programming) and pulls them out at the first opportunity to hinder our progress towards our dreams or highest aspirations.
If anyone recalls, an old system like that does not update. So the library had to spend countless hours to reorganize their information into the new system (of thinking) and update it.
Confront The Situation
Likewise, that information is never 100% accurate. The stories in those memories are constantly being altered by filters based on our changing beliefs.
We may hold an idea about a situation from our perception of what happened, and that perception could be completely opposite of the way someone else involved may see it. And remember, our perceptions about something are always affected by the age and mindset in which we observed it.
That is why it isn’t always accurate. Our perspective doesn’t match actual reality. It’s totally one-sided. It’s just the view from our individual corner of the world, our personal reality; and does not encompass all factors and participants’ perspective of an incident or situation.
Therefore, it behooves us to confront both ourselves, and the situation or person we think we have offended. That is why we have to know our Why.
You cannot get about the business of forgiving yourself until you understand this. Once you understand that, you can deal with the real and hidden issue that caused a self-centered reaction as opposed to a well thought out response.
That is to say, this is is why you must choose to take control, and not allow your subconscious to run amuck. We have to tell our subconscious what we choose to believe. By doing so, you eliminate what others have taught you to believe. You control all of this through meditation.
In summary, you may have to meditate to just to forgive yourself, because that is the first thing you must do to deal with the situation. When you fail to do so, you allow that hurt to emotionally lock in your mind, which then manifests as pain in your body in some form.
So remember what I said about finding a way to give back? Well the first person you must demonstrate that kindness to is yourself. The key to understanding forgiveness is that you “Give for.” The active word is reversed.
Reverse The Curse
Therefore, you give for the purpose of freeing and blessing yourself first, and then others. There is power in giving, thus there is power in forgiving. Both allows the cheerful giver to receive and be bountifully blessed in return, and amplifies their ability to be a blessing to others.
It frees all parties from the hurt of the situation, and allows the opportunity to start over. And we all need a second chance, right? In fact, according to the scriptures above…several second chances.
In conclusion, mistakes are life’s lessons meant to educate us, so that we can do better and be better. Not perfect, mind you, but better. Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for the same.
http://blueletterbible.org for all scripture verses