Why Self-Forgiveness Is The First Step In Setting Your Heart Free

by Allison Isaacson

Have you screwed up recently? Well, I often feel like the month can't be over if I haven't yet somehow "blown it" — if I haven't yet let something fall through the cracks; if I haven't yet realized I made a bad decision; if I haven't yet hurt someone's feelings or let someone down, including myself.

I screw up all the time, and I absolutely beat myself up about it.

Many people might feel badly for a couple hours and then move on. I tend to ruminate on the bad decisions I've made in my 23 years of living: "I shouldn't have done that, which led to this, which led to that, which is why my life and I are so screwed up!"

See any problems here?

This sort of thinking is cyclical and good for nothing. If I’m stuck on my mistakes, missteps and downfalls, how am I supposed to grow from them? This negative thinking pattern is a bad habit that must be consciously worked on in order to break. There’s no changing the past -- period.

If you've ever felt like a loser who is bound to fail under the glare of spotlights or critical eyes, you're not alone. You're SO not alone.

Recently, I took someone’s action on social media personally instead of through the appropriate business lens. Then, after having one too many drinks, I basically told a family member, “Forget you!”

Instead, I should have openly and directly discussed my concerns with my family. I screwed up and it hurt people’s feelings.

I've learned many people are surprisingly compassionate — more so than many of us expect when we simply show them our honest hearts. As Scott Reall writes in "Journey to Freedom,"

"Most people will not abandon us or reject us if we become honest and confess our struggles. Most people will meet us in our pain and comfort us."

But, get this: We can't be honest and open with others if we can't be open and honest with ourselves!

It's entirely possible to forever remain in denial about our screw-ups, our bad habits, our irreversible decisions and the immediate repercussions of them. We can glean positivity from these things, but only if we learn from them and grow as a result.

If we're going to be the best versions of ourselves, we must first forgive ourselves for our own indiscretions. Yep, you read that correctly; we must be able to forgive ourselves, even when we (or others) think we've been the biggest dumbasses on the face of the earth.

That's the first step to making lasting improvements and changing for the better. It’s a necessary step in breaking the bad habit of rumination (dwelling on the past).

We're not giving ourselves a "free pass" when we do forgive ourselves; we're giving ourselves mercy because we're merely mortal humans who intend to make better decisions in the future! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have this thing called a conscience, which makes us feel so horribly at times.

Like many other people, I've made decisions with which I still haven't been able to come to terms… and I don't know if I ever will.

But, I do know I should accept those less-than-ideal decisions and outcomes for what they are – unchangeable and irreversible. Isn't that the first step to recovery?

I can’t move on to more positive endeavors or create opportunities for better experiences in the future if I never close negative chapters of my life.

By forgiving ourselves, we become more in touch with our compassion. We, therefore, become more empathetic and more able to relate to how others feel about their own transgressions.

If we're lucky, this will lead us to be more forgiving in our dealings with others. Now, that's freeing!

I hope I’ll find the strength within me to forgive myself for things I’ve done and, thereby, improve my ability to honestly forgive others in my heart and even to their faces.

I hope you will find the same strength.