PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Sunday, September 07, 2008

 

On forgiving oneself


How does one forgive oneself? Harry says, one solution is by feeling the pain, i.e., being aware of one's feelings, acknowledging that one feels this or that way. Expressing the feeling is healthy, provided the emotion is managed at a decent level. Not acknowledging that you've been hurt will stress one out, possibly causing diseases (but we're not about to jump to conclusion here: we're not saying all diseases are caused by self-repression).

The next step, Harry says, is to make a conscious decision to forgive one's offender and most especially oneself. Someone correctly adds: Nobody's perfect. Acceptance of oneself, together with all of one's faults, though, can be impossible without one crucial stumbling block: pride. It takes humility not to be too harsh or too hard on oneself.

Another key ingredient, says John Powell (in Fully Human, Fully Alive), is courage. Without courage, we won't have the strength to face whatever negative emotion is associated with confronting and forgiving ourselves. We need to first face the facts about ourselves, our feelings, before we are able to forgive. There has to be clarity so we'll know what we are forgiving and why.

How does one know one has forgiven oneself?, I ask. Has he or she already made a decision to forgive?, Harry answers. If yes, one can take a look at a possible indication: one is now able to look back on what happened and talks about it with others without bitterness.

Confession leads to healing, another discussion participant adds, quoting James 5:16.

Then I remember what a priest once said: Another strong sign that one has forgiven oneself is when one looks back and finds everything funny.


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