We hear a lot about the importanceof forgiving those who have harmed us, but what about forgiving ourselves? Is that important as well? I believe that it is.
When we harm someone it is normal and healthy to feel bad about it, to experience regret and to wish we could take it back or do something to make the person feel better. What isn’t healthy is to continually beat ourselves up for our offense and to determine we are a bad person because of it. The first experience is generally thought of as guilt, while the second is considered to be shame. Shame and guilt can feel very similar—with both experiences we feel bad about ourselves. But guilt can be understood as feeling disappointed in oneself for violating an important internal value or code of behavior. Feeling guilty can be a healthy thing: it can open doors leading to positive behavior change. With shame one can also feel a disappointment in one self but no value has been violated. Shame is incredibly unhealthy, causing lowered self-esteem (feelings of unworthiness) and behavior that reinforces that self-image. As we are learning more and more, shame can be an extremely debilitating emotion.
I believe that self-forgiveness is the most powerful step you can take to rid yourself of debilitating shame. This is particularly true for those who have been abused, but it applies to everyone. Self-forgiveness is not only recommended but absolutely essential if we wish to become emotionally healthy and have peace of mind.