Updated: Aug 31
August 1998 was the most dreadful time of my life-- the time when I committed something irreparable (I thought). I was fourteen.
"Bhe, would you give your sister a good-bye kiss?" my mother asked me. She was referring to my 5-year-old youngest sister, Helen Gail, who was about to open the car door and leave with my mother.
I intentionally didn't kiss her instead...
It was around six in the evening. My father drove our car in a nearby parking lot. My mother had to accompany my youngest sister, Helen Gail (Gilay as we call her), to the hospital because she had been running fever for several days, lost her appetite and had generalized body weakness which was getting worse.
That same night, she was transferred to another hospital specialized in treating Dengue fever-- a viral infection which can be acquired from mosquito bite.
Gilay came back to us on August 26, 1998-- lifeless. And I felt so terrible for not kissing her that night, the last time I could, just because of my self-diagnosed egoistic second child syndrome....
It took more than a decade before I stopped condemning myself. Crying wasn't enough to console my guilt. How can you mend something with someone who's forever gone (at least in this life)?
Forgiving our own self is more difficult than forgiving others because technically, we could be living with self-blaming thoughts minute-by-minute. The superego, which includes our conscience, can instantaneously remind us how terrible we acted or behaved. It seems like we are fighting against our own self-- a battle against self-condemnation.
Gladly, I was able to forgive myself. Here are the few things I did to end self-loathing and move on with life. I hope it could somehow help you find inner peace and enlightenment too.
Steps in Forgiving Yourself
Examine your conscience-- not to blame yourself but to understand the facts.
What happened in the past that caused you to do such things? What were your emotions during that time? What pushed your button to make that decision? What was the severity of its consequences? Who were affected? What can you do to make things right?
Understanding the facts will help you build self-awareness. Self-awareness is the first step in creating deep understanding of yourself and changing your perspectives to make positive life changes.
Self-awareness is important so we are not just hearing what our emotions are telling us. Emotions, most of the time, can be deceitful. It clouds our rational self which helps us make sound decisions in life.
Accept your mistakes.
Embrace the fact that the time you committed that mistake belongs to the past and forever will. Pervasively blaming yourself and getting drowned in a bundle of negativity isn't gonna work-- ever.
Don't be sorry for the person who you are. If you do, your self-worth would be continuously dragged to the bottom of the dark pit. Instead, accept your iniquities and weaknesses and be happy that you feel sorry for what you did.
Being hateful, jealous, covetous, hostile, etc at one point or another is totally normal for us humans. But continuously embracing these feelings until your last breath isn't.
Be proud of yourself for overcoming your pride and trampling unjust rationalizations or excuses to defend your wrongdoings.
Confess your mistakes.
Reconcile with the person you've hurt in the past. Pick up the phone, write him/ her a letter, or set an appointment with that person. It takes a lot of courage to humble ourselves. Self-pride is indeed man's worst enemy.
The Bible says in Colossians 3:13:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Verbalize your feelings.
Find your social support and voice out your emotions. You have to let it out to stop yourself from absorbing all those negative thoughts that have been haunting you since the day you committed something you feel sorry about.
Allowing yourself to communicate your feelings with others who are nonjudgmental toward you can make you feel accepted. Keeping your sentiments to yourself can increase your stress level and is detrimental to your overall health.
Don't live your life under the shadow of other people's expectations.
You are specially and wonderfully created by God capable of thinking and deciding for yourself. You are guided by your own life principles and ethical values.
You may have chosen wrong decisions in the past but that doesn't mean you'll allow yourself to be distressed by others who look down on you because you've failed to meet their expectations.
Your personal integrity does not rely on how others see you. It is measured by how you accept and correct your mistakes. You must have your own personal connection to your true self even if others are blind to see it.
Finding inner peace allows you to live your life to the fullest and move on from life's adversaries beyond measure. If you have it you shall be resilient against others' criticisms.
Stop punishing yourself.
Isolation, deprivation, and criticism of your own self will never get things right. Just as they say, 'What's done is done.'
If what you did is wrong then correct it and learn from it. Never get trapped in committing the same mistakes again and again. It requires great determination to part from our bad nature and habits.
As we forgive ourselves, we do not have to necessarily forget the past. We should learn from it, move on with life, and become a person full of wisdom honed by our faults.
Submit to time's healing process. Emotional wounds takes longer to heal than physical wounds. Similarly, self-forgiveness can take time to accomplish. It is a journey of contemplation, acceptance, and commitment.
Don't rush to get there, but never stop from your everyday journey toward it.
If you're deeply wounded by your inability to forgive yourself, seeking professional medical, psychological or spiritual advice might be necessary. Stress toys (e.g. squeeze ball, fidget toys, etc) can also be also be helpful in coping with the stress of shame and guilt.
Strengthen your connection with God.
You and I may have different religious beliefs, but just in case you acknowledge God as our King and Creator, the Almighty and Most Powerful, dedicate morning and evening times with Him.
How many among us, amidst our busy days, have spent regular moments to strengthen our faith? Of all the people I've known and met, only few have actually talked or expressed about seeking God's divine interventions in times of great troubles.
Is it because we have relied so much on our own intelligence, wisdom and capabilities? Has our faith to the Supreme Being failed to grow because of the many incredible advances and wonders in human ideologies?
Think again brothers and sisters in faith... The ultimate responsibility of man is to glorify God in everything we do. Moreover, God can make wonders in consoling even our deepest hurts. Surrender everything to Him and hold on to His promise:
I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.
(2 Kings 20:5)
Do mind conditioning, such as positive self-talk, on a regular basis. These activities affect your emotions and behaviors in a healthy way.
Affirming your strengths increases your confidence and motivation to accomplish goals and objectives-- such as the arduous task of forgiving yourself.
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