TED Conversations

Meyla Hooker

Educator, KIPP Houston High School

This conversation is closed.

Is there a framework for forgiving yourself?

I have met many people lately that often find it impossible to forgive themselves (for situations big and small). I once thought this was easy for me. When I delved deeper, however, it became apparent that I have the same issue. Would love your thoughts on this topic.

  • Nov 10 2011: I forgive myself, when I am ready to change, when I've learned the life lesson.
    It's not because I choose this way, it simply happens this way.
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    Nov 9 2011: The challenge of self-forgiveness is sometimes perspective. Think about what happens when you can't forgive yourself for something. It limits your ability to take that energy and focus it on something good and productive that can help others. Life is about perspective, not mistakes. Every perspective, as difficult as it they are, provides a valuable resource in life's journey. Perspective is a learning tool. Not letting go prevents you from moving ahead. At some point you need to let go and find closure. Perhaps the best way to do it, though hardly easy, is simply to say to yourself, 'I'm done beating myself up over this. I will not allow myself to dwell on it. The minute I start to dwell on it I promise myself to stop.' Forgiveness is no more selfish than meeting the daily requirements to eat. Forgiveness is nourishment for the soul.
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    Oct 28 2011: Hi Meyla,
    If you want to go even deeper, we can realize that if we want/need to forgive ourselves or others for something, we first had to blame or judge ourselves or them for something...yes?

    My framework or foundation, is first to realize that I am living a human life which is an exploration for me. I make the best decisions possible with the information I have at any given time, and the life adventure is about learning. I don't feel I need to blame or judge anyone, including myself, or ask anyone to take responsibility for my feelings or choices. It is called unconditional love, and in order to give it to others, I first give it to myself:>)
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      Nov 8 2011: My first TED reply goes to my favorite TED person: Hi Colleen! You start by "If you want to go even deeper ..." which is precisely what I love doing, because I seek the strongest foundation on which to stand, experience and speak. Good goin', girl!

      Your 2nd paragraph sets your foundation and clearly speaks your choices; how can anyone argue? But of course your point is to be helpfully responsive, not to invite argument, so I am 100% with you. I find your understanding to be so beautifully deep, no wonder you have such a glowing smile!
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        Nov 8 2011: John,
        I am truly honored to be the recipient of your first TED reply, and your kind words give me a wonderful boost to start the morning:>)

        You're right...I do not like to invite argument. I saw more than enough of that as a child, and as a wee little one, I decided NOT to invite arguments into my life. I believe we (humans) are all here to support each other in our life journey, and there is much much more to recognize in each other that is similar, rather than different. We simply cannot go deeper with anything when we are whirling around in silly verbal arguments in which people are trying to prove themselves "right"....in my humble perception:>)

        Thank you for recognizing that the smile comes from deep within...you've got a good one too BTW
        Welcome to TED:>)
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    Nov 8 2011: How important does one has to feel him/herself to not accept the notion of being wrong at some time.

    Even when it was harmful to someone or something it was inevitable from the way we were.

    If we’d knew better we’d done better. It’s the only way we get to know ourselves, and to improve our shortcomings .
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      Nov 8 2011: Good point Frans,
      I believe we usually function based on the information we have at any given time...as you say..."If we'd knew better we'd done better". We need to explore our "self" in order to recognize some of the underlying emotions to know more about ourselves and explore different information.

      Here's the hitch, in my perception:
      In order to explore the depth of ourselves, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. When we explore on a deep level, we may not like what we find there. It may bring up old memories and emotional wounds. Those who often blame themselves or others, do it because it is easier than allowing our "self" to be vulnerable to explore our "self". People are often wounded from past experiences, and blaming others is often a protective mechanism.

      In order to break the cycle of wounding/blaming we need to take small steps at first. Test the waters, so to speak. One needs to be ready to take the journey into "self", and the path may be challenging at times. However, for me, the adventure of exploring, and healing the wounds, is way too valuable to NOT consider.
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        Nov 8 2011: Colleen, all of your thoughts have been so helpful and have allowed me to reflect deeply. I am impressed, but not surprised, at the way this conversation has taken off. The TED community is impressive. THANK YOU!
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          Nov 8 2011: Dear Meyla,
          Thank you for the feedback, and I'm glad I can offer some ideas that may be helpful. The information I offer comes from my own experience of exploring my "self" over the years. Although it is sometimes challenging, it is also very empowering and beautiful to know that we do not need to carry the energy of regret, blame or shame. We can have peace and contentment in our own lives regardless of the past experiences. In fact, by recognizing all there is to explore with past experiences, we come out wiser and more in tune with our "self", by facing the challenge:>)

          My loving energy is with you in your quest Meyla:>)
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        Nov 8 2011: Colleen, I also believe - based on both observation and logic - that we tend to function based on the information we have ready access to at any given time.

        The hitch that I recognize is that we almost certainly have a "reactive mind" that stores past incidents of actual physical pain and diminished conscious awareness, plus recordings of emotional pain ... and when any of those gets restimulated, we tend to automatically react based more on previous incidents' information than on current situation's information. In other words, old memories and emotional wounds can color our choices without our understanding, and until we clear these old memories and emotional wounds, we are subject to doing things that we don't like and therefore tend to try to protect ourselves from by blaming others. At least, this is how I understand the way the mechanism functions.

        Like you, even knowing that facing the buried parts of ourselves is going to bring up pain, I choose to make myself vulnerable to briefly re-experiencing the pain in favor of being more fully my true self. In other words, the alternative sucks way worse. I am a part of universal consciousness, with a purpose of creating joy. The reactive mind gets in the way of that.
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          Nov 9 2011: John,
          I think we're saying the same thing regarding the "hitch"?
          I say..."we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable... It may bring up old memories and emotional wounds. Those who often blame themselves or others, do it because it is easier than allowing our "self" to be vulnerable to explore our "self". People are often wounded from past experiences, and blaming others is often a protective mechanism".

          The "hitch" you speak of... "is that we almost certainly have a "reactive mind" that stores past incidents of actual physical pain and diminished conscious awareness... recordings of emotional pain ... and when any of those gets restimulated, we tend to automatically react based more on previous incidents' information than on current situation's information...old memories and emotional wounds can color our choices without our understanding, and until we clear these old memories and emotional wounds, we are subject to doing things that we don't like and therefore tend to try to protect ourselves from by blaming others. At least, this is how I understand the way the mechanism functions".

          I percieve that we're saying something similar in different ways, and you expanded on the original thought. Sometimes, experiencing the pain is the best way to learn and grow, taking us to a deeper place in ourselves. Experiencing pain opening and honestly has brought me to a deeper level of empathy and compassion for myself and others. It is a big part of my "framework" for life, and I would never deny myself that process.
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        Nov 9 2011: To get from one place to another can take many steps but every journey we take starts with the first step.
        To change all fear into trust: "We need to make ourselves vulnarable." Put off our mask or armour to meet ourselves.
        Colleen its amazing how you picture all essentials to break down the false ego.

        Mahatma Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
        Mark (8:35) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
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          Nov 9 2011: Frans,
          I have had some very good teachers to learn to break down the false ego, and refrain from wearing masks....a violent abusive father, cancer, degenerative disc dis-ease, and various other life challenges. My "final exam", in my humble opinion, was the near fatal head/brain injury. After being hooked up to life support systems, with tubes and wires connected to all parts of the body keeping the body alive, being in a child like state emotionally and physically dependant on others for very basic needs, kind of severs any attachment to the ego.

          My life experiences were (and continue to be) great opportunities to learn that ego and masks only serve to protect us from our "self". Anyone with any sense of "self" can easily "feel" the masks, and false ego, so what's the point? It's a waste of energy in my humble perception:>)
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      Nov 8 2011: Very practical, Frans. I like that!
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        Nov 9 2011: Thank you John.
        Some comment on your remark elsewhere.
        Everything is absolutely perfect exactly as it is, like your friend said.
        It means everything is in equilibrium.
        If one thing is pushed from the centre the complementary part is pushed as well into the opposite direction. Never do good so you will not create bad. Never doubt yourself put your trust in God for God is Good.
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      Nov 8 2011: Hi Frans... (and Welcome to TED there John !)

      I've enjoyed coming across many of your comments Frans... very insightful ! The first day I was on TED I was struck by the simplicity of your response to the "Who am I ?" question :

      " As I am, there's a current in the stream. "

      Beautiful !

      Here is something I read from Nietzsche, a long time ago...it helped free me from so much unnecessary guilt !

      “Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchcraft, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.”

      Self and other condemnation is always with respect to a standard, a conceptualization of a value. Only by the inward act of comparing the "given" to an "ideal", and finding the "given" to be lacking, or "missing the mark", can the feelings of guilt and resentment be created. But the "ideal" itself was created, and the act of comparison too !

      I am NOT suggesting that real harms do not occur ... but simply that so much of the guilt and resentment I carried was not only useless... it was self created, and often unecessary !

      I don't know... I just wanted to connect with you... to see if you had any thoughts on the Nietzsche quote...

      All the Best!
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        Nov 8 2011: Thanks for the welcome, Denis! I've enjoyed and found value in many of your contributions to TED, and love your smile too. I suspect you wear it most of the time you are conscious!

        In response to the Nietzsche quote, I'm not convinced that the guilt was non-existent. I start by defining the key word, guilt. Per my computer dictionary, guilt is "a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation". So yes, the way I see it pretty much agrees with you: when we allow ourselves to consider that we have done something wrong or have failed in an obligation, the feeling becomes real and points us in a direction to resolve the wrongness or failure. And when our thoughts and subsequent actions follow that direction, we move toward resolution and dissolving the emotional charge. That's a good thing. Any other creation or use of guilt is indeed horribly burdensome, which is worse than unnecessary.

        All the best 2,
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          Nov 8 2011: Yeah...Nietzsche's position does seem to be a dangerous extreme ...but he often provokes, and I believe with the intention of inducing self reflection !

          When I do experience guilt, it is an opportunity for growth ... to reflect upon what value may be operative, what standard has conceptualized, and I ask myself if I still wish to live in accordence with that value (most of them having been assimilated in chilhood). If I do decide to maintain the value, then I will need to take the necessary actions to live in respect of it. My actions are thereby guided by chosen values, and rarely spring from a sense of obligation.

          BTW I read recently that the German word for guilt is "schuld" ! Rings a bell... doesn't it?

          And with respect to Nietzsche's example, he suggests in the Genealogy of Morals, that in the distant past, the rulers created the idea of personal responsibility in order to give themselves the right to punish, to hold individuals accountable, to find them guilty or praiseworthy, and in so doing, they often managed to hold the community together, and thereby maintained their power over the people. (Divide and Rule... in a psychological sense!)

          Hmmm... old habits die hard in our culture !

          Anyway... I hope you enjoy your TED-time as much as I do !

          All the best3 !
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        Nov 9 2011: Hi Dennis, welcome.
        I very much appreciate your contribution too.
        You have a good use of words and a clear expression.

        Your remark about "schuld" (German/Dutch) is a nice one.
        The word is derived from the old Myths.
        Three Norns are three Goddesses of faith: Urd, Verdanda and Skuld. (Translated: Origin, Becoming, Guilt.) Those three are spinning our life's thread.
        (Action, reaction, result) It's a pity we've last those stories.

        On Nietzsche, you explained it yourself. We are conditioned to behave in certain ways and made to feel guilty not to comply to it. Some people use it to manipulate other people that one you've mentioned too.

        I hope you will stay a while.
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          Nov 10 2011: Well Thank You too Frans...

          I absolutely adore the wisdom symbolized in ALL of our mythologies! I am definitely looking forward to reading the one you have mentioned...

          As to staying for awhile... its feeling that way right now !

          I was delighted to discover such heart-centered people on here... I really didn't expect it !

          Anyway Frans... its good to get to know you, through this very strange medium !

          See you again!
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        Nov 10 2011: just a comment on Nietzsche, Most people I run into don't realize he said,"That which doesn't kill us make us stronger." My mom used to say that to me all the time. I finally asked which chapter of the bible did that come from, she looked kinda funny at me and said she wasn't sure but it was in there somewhere and that I needed to read some more till I found it. Lol
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    Nov 3 2011: I think the most important part of the framework would be in realizing that like other people, you are simply human and that in spite of your best efforts we all fail and make mistakes. Learning to forgive oneself is a journey but the obstacles to self forgiveness are often rooted in a disproportionate super ego. That is the inner voice that comes from harsh parenting or authority figures which was absorbed to become part of yourself. You have to challenge that inner voice and its sources. Everyone- including youself- deserves forgiveness. Without it you can never achieve the good you might achieve. It can make you so afraid of making a mistake or of failing that you never step up and try again.
    I wish you love and kindness.
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    Nov 2 2011: A very interesting question.
    Acceptance is something which I found very useful when I am judging myself harshly.
    Then understanding my limits or my choices and why I made it. Sometimes I could have made different choices and sometimes I could not ...
    And being ok with it. That takes time for me.
    And letting go...

    It is an inner battle always :)
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    Nov 8 2011: Perhaps when we have so many images of who we "should be" built up all around us like billboards (for me: how a respectable woman should behave; being a good daughter; a progressive teacher / role model; healthy person; upstanding member of society etc.), it is so much work to keep up. Then, when we inevitably slip up and do something "not worthy", it seems to make us feel like we have denigrated all our efforts and the efforts of those who believe in us.

    I'm not saying that being the opposite of those roles is our true essence that we're hiding from. I think for me, I haven't been ashamed of anything in a long time, especially since I started taking on roles and doing things in life that I truly endorse or care about. Then, nothing really bad comes of it. I notice that everything is a either a blessing or a blessing in disguise. Every moment is just a learning experience. I think, when we are roped into doing and being things we don't want, falling out of line there makes us feel the fear of unknown consequences because we don't really, ultimately know what we're doing there. And we can't forgive ourselves as a result.

    Make sure you're doing what you love, I guess. There will be no shame. There will be no mistake.
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      Nov 8 2011: Agreed, after thinking it over. After having so many "shoulds" imposed on me for most of my life, and "working hard" to comply, a very tired me gave up and decided on your far-more-practical approach: doing and endorsing things I care about.

      At this moment, I care about your final paragraph very much. I have been suspended from my job for doing something that I love: playing with kids. I am a school bus driver. One of my young riders unfortunately misinterpreted one of my playful actions, said something to her parents, and now all the "authorities" are involved in sorting it out. My shame is in not having perceived that my action could be taken in any way other than playful and loving. I would say that I definitely made a mistake. Is this indeed a blessing in disguise? Of course. But I am still unsure of what that blessing is, but I am still learning.
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        Nov 8 2011: I think your situation requires a lot of self-knowledge or soul-searching to know if your actions were out of love, or out of something else. Certainly, because children are the most vulnerable group in our society, there are huge "shoulds" and "should nots" when it comes to dealing with them. I believe you when you say that you love kids because waking up every morning to do your job for many years (?) absolutely requires it.

        But, loving kids could also mean really learning about their plight in society, in the world. Why do we have such a tough attitude in protecting them? Orphans are squandered off and harvested / raped; their obedience and dexterity are exploited for chocolate, coffee and diamond production for us in the west; their psychological well-being is sacrificed for the passing sexual pleasure of the uncaring etc. All those authorities you speak of, by asserting themselves on you are both upholding this universal (over-)protection of children, but at the same time, are masking their own shame themselves. They are punishing you, to some extent to redeem some negligence, abuse; profit they have made off kids. Nobody is perfect.

        I guess just be careful that you don't do the same.
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          Nov 9 2011: Thank you Genevieve for your thoughts and guesses. I DO have a lot of self-knowledge, and truly love soul-searching ... in fact if you ask my wife, she'll probably tell you I do WAY too much of it! And I don't even have the slightest shadow of a doubt that my actions were out of love.

          But yes, I understand the over-protectiveness syndrome that I have gotten hit with. It is a reaction to pain that was previously experienced, and projected onto me, by both parents and child who truly don't know me. I love that the parents want to protect their child, and forgive them their refusal to believe me because I know they are misemotional.

          You are correct in realizing that such people are likely "masking their own shame" to some degree ... otherwise I would have been confronted with more openness, no profanity, and less readiness to engage in physical violence. Such confrontation has - thankfully - been extremely rare in my long experience this lifetime. There really isn't any need for it; I simply don't do violence ... even though I am being accused of it now.

          The tough part for me is that it may cost me a job I dearly love. I love interacting with kids, always have. I've also found everyone at the bus company to be wonderfully human and supportive, and I feel really bad to have done this to them. If the higher-ups at the bus company allow me to keep working, I have already chosen new ways to accomplish what I was hoping to accomplish with my playfulness. The new ways are very much in line with company procedures, so I have high confidence they'll work.

          My wife feels a very strong need to continually caution me to be careful. She's very sensitive, and has taught me a lot in our 5+ years together (2nd marriage for both of us). My nature is more exuberant than hers, partly because I am "blessed" with a much greater physical skills and a higher pain tolerance. Thus I take more risks, and have more fun; but I do appreciate the caring in messages to be careful.
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        Nov 9 2011: Wow... John... when I chatted with you before I had no idea that you were going through such an ordeal.

        Assuming your innocence(and I will), may I make a few suggestions:

        The exposure to the interrogation of your peers and authorities can be a very painful process. Once your reputation, and all the kind acts that you have done, are suddenly drawn into question, and you live in the fear of being ostricized by your community... you will need to have people close to you who absolutely trust your interpretation of events. If you do not have the support of loved ones, I would suggest that you seek professional assistence... a place to talk, and explore the torrents of emotion which may pass through you. Above all ... do NOT lie to the authorities or fabricate any details. These people are simply doing, what "we the people", want them to do... to serve and protect. In the end, your reputation may be cleared, and that dark cloud of suspicion might dissipate.

        Either way John... you need to ACCEPT what is occurring is
        for the best... and that's never easy.

        All the best4,

        P.S. Having re-read the posting above, it certainly sounds like you have the right attitude!
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          Nov 9 2011: Thanks Denis. Of course you had no idea of my "ordeal", because it didn't seem germane to what you & I were conversing about so I didn't bring it up. But now here we are, and it does seem germane to the original topic, so I will continue.

          Let's talk about the "torrents of emotion which may pass through" me. I would say I have experienced 3 basic emotions that aren't particularly good: confusion, hurt and fear. The confusion occurred during and following the initial confrontation. The hurt happened when I saw tears in the eyes of the young girl, tears that hadn't been there during nor immediately following my interaction with her, tears that I never intended to cause. And the fear happened in my boss's office when she told me "this is deep, and could be grounds for termination".

          I have always been wary of emotions, mostly because I have encountered so much mis-emotion in my life. And until recently, my understanding of emotions was really poor. Now, I have a pretty clear picture of what they are, how they arise, and what their true purpose is. And I do welcome genuine emotions that fit real situations. Thus, I have accepted these 3 torrents of emotion, and I am very much letting them point out directions for improved thinking. It's pretty cool, especially since this approach allows me to share honestly with anyone who cares.

          I spoke with a professional the very next day. He was fantastic! He let me own my feelings. He told me that he could see that my heart was clearly in the right place, and that the outcome would be good for all as a result. He will be one of the 1st people I tell of "the verdict" when it does come down.

          Your "above all" caution is spot-on. I have not lied nor fabricated anything, nor will I. At my boss's suggestion, I wrote out a full report of the incident as it happened to me. It took 4 pages, and it relieved my confusions. The hurt remains, as does the fear, but those are not overpowering. I accept them.

          Again, thanks!
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        Nov 9 2011: John...

        You may want to speak to a lawyer before opening up in this very public forum...k? I don't want to discourage you from processing your feelings in whatever manner you see fit... but you also need to tread very carefully around this matter...there is a lot at stake...K?

        Take care of yourSelf !
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          Nov 9 2011: Point taken.

          Update: the company does regret having to let me go, but it is done. I wish all the best for the family that experienced this unnecessary trauma, and I am off to interview for another job.

          Is my emotional processing complete? Not quite. I still find myself thinking and feeling about it, but I'm OK with moving on too.
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        Nov 14 2011: John, here is the chance to give my support. You have to live with the truth that is contained in your heart. If you are innocent, you are a victim of the trend of "political correctness" that seems to have a sterilizing effect on our ability to freely express our emotions. The upheaval in your life may be the ferment of an excellent wine. Kissing on the mouth between family members, even good friends is part of everyday life in places where people don't think it is a sin.
        Outcome of the whole affair may be out of your hands now.
        Except for what you say, and that your words will find the right ears.
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          Nov 14 2011: Thanks for your support, Laszlo. I am moving on, and not "sterilizing" myself with the "political correctness" that required my employer to terminate me. It's far more important to me, to keep on expressing me ... and I remain confident that is best for all those whose lives I touch as well.

          I have already interviewed with another company, and begin my training tomorrow. Why did they like me? Because I was willing to express my emotions, which led them to believe in my authenticity.

          Bringing this back onto the conversation topic, my framework for forgiveness has served me quite well here. I understand the company's position; they need to be viewed as politically correct or they stand to lose business ... and thus, it is easy for me to forgive them. I understand that the family who still insists that I harmed them, is still in need of a willingness to examine the truth of what actually happened ... and when they are emotionally calm enough to do so, they will grow (and perhaps at that time our paths will cross, and more appropriate emotions will be expressed, and peace will reign between us).

          I harbor no ill will in any of this. My life is moving in the right direction.


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    Nov 6 2011: Hi Meyla...from my experience, NOT forgiving myself was a form of punishment. Somehow I deserved the pain and suffering...I wasn't worthy of being forgiven. It's terribly sad but was true.

    Since that time I focused on loving mySELF...it was a process (that still happens today) but I spent a good couple of years passionately focusing on healing my pain because I did NOT want to repeat the patterns that were continuing to show up in my life.These patterns created more situations that fed the belief that I was a bad person...and didn't deserve to be forgiven, loved, nurtured or honoured/validated. By processing that pain...really seeking to UNDERSTAND it, I began to slowly heal. When I healed it was only then I could find self love. Once I found self love, I was able to forgive myself.

    This all took time, but ultimately YOU ARE WORTH IT.

    I hope that's helpful.

    With a smile,
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      Nov 9 2011: Well done, Tina! Your sharing should be inspirational.
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        Nov 9 2011: Thank you John....

        "What comes from the heart, touches the heart"

        One of my favorite quotes....

        Hope you are have a JOY-full day!
        With a smile,
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    Oct 29 2011: Realize, that putting myself down is a useless exercise. If I mess up, corrections are called for, not punishment and unending penance. I can't keep on messing up, it will not be tolerated. Admit my mistake and get on with it.
  • Oct 28 2011: Wow! What a thought! A framework for forgiving yourself...

    My first thought is to admit you are human and humans make mistakes. Judgement, quality, bad life choices, etc. we all make mistakes. My next step is to then see if i can correct it. Restitution, apology, amends if possible. If the mistake was large, then my next action is to get through the next week, focusing on each day and trying to fill each day with work that causes me to lose myself. At the end of the week, forgiving myself is a more manageable task. I also try and do things with family. They usually know something is wrong, but by virtue of their love and companionship, seem to help me through tough times. Sometimes I walk on the beach, or in the mountains where I can here water and sort of realize how small my problems are in the grand scheme of things. Then I try an analyze why I feel guilty or need to forgive myself, break it down into parts and think how I might have reacted differently or acted differently in a given situation. Usually this discretization makes me realize there were several contributing factors, not all of which were in my control and usually not all of which were relative tot he situation causing the guilt. After I figure it all out, then I apply the serenity prayer:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Although I am not very religious, it seems like good advice. Then I move on with life.Maybe its fishing, Maybe its golf, maybe its going garage-saling with the wife. Do not let the past spoil the present.

    You might also seek council with any living parents or grandparents, particularly fathers and grandfathers. By the time they have reached that age, most are pretty good at forgiving themselves. It is a survival instinct. They also usually know just what to say or do to help children or grandchildren get past a problem...even if it is with a song and a few peppermint patties
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    Nov 14 2011: Offense, Regret, Positive Action, Authority, Time.

    Sometimes the authority to forgive doesn't lie with us, but in most cases it will. If we use the principle of judging ourselves like we judge others, we may have to adjust our view of ourselves and others.

    Lastly in a universal sense, I like the Principle the Prophet Jesus told one of his diciples, 'we should forgive others 7 times 77 times.' This was an indication that our propensity to forgive a repentant person should be unlimited. By setting this standard he obligated himself to follow it.
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      Nov 14 2011: That Jesus had it pretty together, didn't he?! Excellent points, Jon.
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    Nov 13 2011: A very important aspect of forgiveness is repentance, and for me at least it has been *the* framework to follow. Although I am not a religious believer, I find the biblical linking of forgiveness with repentance compelling, and enlightnening to the question at hand.

    If forgiveness is nothing more than a sentiment of "I'm sorry," and/or a recognition of our human frailities, it is very easy to do but possesses little power. However, if one realizes that forgiveness is nothing without repentance -- an actual changing of ways -- then we realize just how difficult and profound an act it is.

    Unless and until one is willing to confront the motive(s) behind their transgressions, real forgiveness isn't really possible, either forgiveness of themselves or forgiveness from others. If someone is having difficulty forgiving themselves, it may be because they realize they need to change at some fundamental level, and they know full well what a profound and challenging thing that is to do.
  • Nov 13 2011: Such a good question, I know I struggle with the same. I'm not sure if you are religious, so my answer might be useless.... I consider the fact that God forgives. (Everyone) If God already forgave me.. then I am forgiven, and if I don't forgive myself (and others) I am placing myself above God. This only makes sense if you are of a religion though.
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      Nov 14 2011: Anna,

      Thanks for joining in. "Religious" viewpoints certainly have widespread validity, and tend to line up well with - what I see as - broader "spiritual" viewpoints. Tony recognizes the wisdom of linking repentance with forgiveness, which restores greater power to the forgiver. He knows this wisdom is expressed in the Bible, and credits that while stating he is "not a religious believer". I understand that viewpoint well, as I consider myself more spiritual than "religious".

      As a spiritual person, I recognize God as "ultimate simultaneous consciousness" rather than "Lord". And as we expand our individual parts of consciousness, we move toward the unity that IS God, and IS forgiving ... which is only slightly different from your viewpoint, and thus I do not see your answer as "useless".
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    Nov 11 2011: Hello, I wrote an article on FORGIVENESS and would love to share it with you. However this space is too small to contain it. Here is a link where you can read it fully. http://my.opera.com/graceland09/blog/
    I believe the feeling/ desire to forgive ourselves or others is inherent to our brokenness, the bedrock of humankind. It just comes with Living. Yet, it seems that we have not LIVED until we learn to forgive. We can only truly forgive in light of a deep-seated knowing that we are accepted and loved beyond our own capacity/ ability to Love ourselves or another human being. I pray this will bring to you as much healing as it did for me while I wrote this, from the fruit of my own search and experience. Feel free to share it with others. There's a French version of that article as well on the blog.Blessings to you, Carole
  • Nov 10 2011: discussion is always helpful john :-) I'm also not interested who's 'right' because this would turn into an over-intellectual discussion with no other result then taking us further out of the moment (the now).

    i only wanted to contribute to this discussion (and hopefully to others as well) that when taking the feeling as the entry point, lots and lots of the need for problem solving type-of-thinking just seems to melt away together with the triggering problem .. i have to practice this myself much more to get it deeper into my system but i could not resist sharing the thought here ..
    best regards
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      Nov 14 2011: Arjan, I am so glad you did not resist sharing your thoughts here. "Taking the feeling as the entry point" is indeed worth more conscious practice.

      Best regards back to you!
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    Nov 10 2011: one has to understand guilt and the way our egos use guilt to control our actions. once your aware of the dynamics of those forces within you, you become aware of the fact you don't need forgiveness because guilt has lost it's power to control you.
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      Nov 10 2011: Excellent point Brian,
      To seek forgiveness for/from ourselves or others, we must feel guilty about something. I agree that guilt CAN control and change the dynamics of our behaviors. Understanding our need to hold onto the guilt, or expect others to feel guilty, is an important factor, and very intertwined with understanding and needing forgiveness. Not only does guilt control us, but in expecting others to feel guilty because of his/her actions or words, we are trying to control him/her as well. Thanks for that simple and well articulated comment:>)
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    Nov 10 2011: Meyla,

    Just after commenting here on your Q, I saw this essay. It is a poignant and powerful example of what I was trying to get at. And, for me a timely reminder there is hope:


    This soldier is a stellar example of expressing self-insight and attempting to address hurt he has engaged by publicly addressing the complicated humanity, his and others, caught up in actions he was involved in.

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      Nov 10 2011: WOW! Thank you for this article. It demonstrates that even those of us who hate war need to have compassion for the torn and wounded souls of soldiers who are not automatons after all- just men caught in a societal insanity. I have pasted the final poigniant paragraph here.

      "After coming home, our commanders told us we earned glory for our unit, but I know it’s more complicated than that. War has little to do with glory and everything to do with hard work and survival. It’s about keeping your goodness amid the evil. But no matter what happens, you never work hard enough, people die and evil touches everyone. Our lives will go on but the war will never go away. That’s why it’s not simply good to be back. I thought my war was over, but it followed me. It followed all of us. We returned only to find that it was waiting here the entire time and will always be with us."
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        Nov 10 2011: Debra--

        Following your lead, I'm pasting part of the essay that spoke to me. That relate to Timothy's attempts to stay with and in relationship to the exquisitely difficult lessons, somehow:

        "With six months left on our deployment I had no choice but to move on. I told myself we did what we were trained to do and that it just ended badly. I stuck with that reasoning despite feeling terrible and soon, my emotions caught up to my logic. People say they can remember a traumatic incident like it was yesterday. I can’t. Since my return, Afghanistan has melted into a feeling more than a memory.

        But I do remember the widows and orphans and wailing families and the faces of two men on a motorcycle. They understood they were being killed as it happened, yet they couldn’t accept their fate. They died painfully. Their teeth clenched and grimacing.Their eyes open. Those eyes gave them a final pleading expression. Why did you kill us?

        Back in the United States, I look at people and think: 'You have no idea what right and wrong are.' Much that I once held as matters of conscience is now just custom or culture. The challenging thing about ethics is you have to figure them out for yourself."

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          Nov 10 2011: It is utterly great ,Andrea , that you shared this here. People are busy and I find many do not have the time to search out even the great links that are provided but they might be enriched by an excerpt pasted here that encapsulates the message.

          There is a Christian expression that goes something like "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Does that fact make us terrible human beings or just wounded souls trying to make it through life in the best way we can? Forgiving ourselves for being frail and imperfect even when we have caused pain allows us to move on and do more and better to create a better world.

          I wish we could hug everyone who needs it and give a peaceful sleep to tortured souls. I wish we could find a way to end the war that every individual is fighting in their own way.
  • Nov 9 2011: i would argue that there are things a person should not forgive themselves for. to do so would essentially be lying to yourself. i know regret is to many people something to be purged, but regret serves a very useful purpose in that it makes us strive to do better. without it we are prone to continue wronging people in the same way, which hurts our relationships, since we would have no buffer against when we are wronged by others.

    in short, forgiving yourself is not only unnecessary but undesirable.
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    Nov 8 2011: Oooh, good question Meyla.

    We are human, therefore we are not perfect-that is something I have learned in life and even in genetics class. Did you know we even have these 'fix-it' genese built into our DNA? Yep, we were born with our own 'fixing machine' inside of us, if that doesn't tell us we are prone to mistakes, I don't know what does.

    But I digress.

    I think one important way to 'forigive' ourselves is to commit to changing. Commit to not making the same mistakes. Commit to doing something different, something that will lead you to the path of respect and honor.

    That forgiveness may include asking for forgiveness from others we have wronged, or maybe, if that is not possible, just doing what I said above.

    Recognize the mistake.
    Own it.
    Change so that it never happens again.
    Know that when you have taken those steps, you are on your way to a you who you can respect.

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      Nov 9 2011: You are so right, Estela! Everything you shared is excellent, and helps to produce excellence ... even your digression ;-)
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    Nov 8 2011: Some things I guess are just unforgivable ... I found out in the last few months that I'm capable of treason and it seemed that I can forgive myself for doing it. Here's how it turned out ...
    I wasn't able to live with the thought.
    I had trouble sleeping for about a week.
    I resolved the issue in the best possible (for me) way.
    I no longer have doubts that I made the right decision (by letting go of the impossible).
    I still have nagging thought from time to time about letting the people down and disregarding my promise.

    And here's what it adds up to: You can only hope to salvage things in the best possible way once they've gone terribly wrong. The silver lining is that you get to know your very own self better and face what you'd never thought you'd experience. :)
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      Nov 8 2011: Wow! Your honesty and resilience are inspiring, Silvia. Thanks for sharing this. I have also committed treason, followed the same basic process, and pretty much come to the same conclusion ... but not quite.

      The nagging thoughts point to the incomplete resolution. The accompanying feelings are uneasy, and thus the resulting emotion will keep sticking up its little hand and letting you know that it's still there. There's something that you still don't understand. To resolve this, I have used the Ethics Conditions formulas of L. Ron Hubbard, which are not yet in wide use in our society. I will write more about this if you are interested.

      The other thing that helps me is knowing that ultimately, each of us is a part of God = universal consciousness, yet as humans our consciousness is necessarily quite limited ... and thus our actions always have the potential of being considered wrong, treasonous, etc. Ultimately, I know my heart is pure because it is based in God. God understands and forgives, even when any of us does not understand well enough yet to allow full forgiveness. Hence, we seek to go on living, learning and expanding our conscious understandings ... despite having caused painful experiences that we had no real intention to create.

      Stay strong. We are all capable of treason, but we are also capable of learning, helping and forgiving. I believe in you.
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        Nov 9 2011: Thank you, John! I would appreciate it if you could share some of the Ethics Conditions formulas so that I can get to know them. :) I don't know if what I did was totally right but I feel much better now that the matter is resolved without serious consequences.
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          Nov 10 2011: Oh goodie, Silvia, you want to know them! That delights me!

          First, a list of the conditions, in descending order:
          Power Change
          Normal Operation

          Now, the - simplified - formulas, in ascending order:

          Confusion - Find Out Where You Are
          Treason - Find out That You Are
          Enemy - Find Out Who You Really Are
          Doubt - 1. Inform oneself honestly of the actual intentions and activities of that group, project or organization, brushing aside all bias and rumor
          2. Examine the statistics of the individual, group, project or organization
          3. Decide on the basis of "the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics" whether or not it should be attacked, harmed or suppressed or helped
          4. Evaluate oneself or one's own group, project or organization as to intentions and objectives
          5. Evaluate one's own or one's group, project or organization's statistics
          6. Join or remain in or befriend the one which progresses toward the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics and announce the fact publicly to both sides
          7. Do everything possible to improve the actions and statistics of the person, group, project or organization one has remained in or joined
          8. Suffer on up through the conditions in the new group if one has changed sides, or the conditions of the group one has remained in if wavering from it has lowered one's status.

          There's more, but not enough characters to complete. Will continue in a bit, unless you find all this overwhelming. I admit it is quite thorough, but I have applied these formulas many times and really felt full closure each time I did them. Note: yes, I usually dropped all the way down to confusion before finally facing my real situation. Damn embarassing, yes?
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          Nov 10 2011: Continuing my reply re: ethics conditions formulas of L. Ron Hubbard.

          Liability - 1. Decide who are one's friends
          2. Deliver an effective blow to the enemies of the group one has been pretending to be part of despite personal danger
          3. Make up the damage one has done by personal contribution far beyond the ordinary demands of a group member
          4. Apply for re-entry to the group by asking permission of each member of it to rejoin and rejoining only by majority permission, and if refused, repeating (2) and (3) and (4) until one is allowed to be a group member again.
          Non-Existence - 1. Find and get yourself on every communication line you will need in order to give and obtain information relating to your duties and materiel
          2. Make yourself known, along with your post title and duties, to every terminal you will need for the obtaining of information and the giving of data
          3. Discover from your seniors and fellow staff members and any public your duties may require you to contact, what is needed and wanted from each
          4. Do, produce and present what each needs and wants that is in conformation with policy
          5. Maintain your communication lines that you have and expand them to obtain other information you now find you need on a routine basis
          6. Maintain your origination lines to inform others what you are doing exactly, but only those who actually need the information
          7. Streamline what you are doing, producing and presenting so that it is more closely what is really needed and wanted
          8. With full information being given and received concerning your products, do, produce and present a greatly improved product routinely on your post.

          Damn, that's a long one, and it only gets you started. I'm applying Non-Existence right now to a new business. Next, one moves up to Danger ... can you believe that?!! If you don't get it, start looking for words you don't fully understand.

          'nuff for now,

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      Nov 9 2011: The world is a nicer place for having you in it Silvia!
      We all make mistakes. By characterizing what ever you did as treason, you are elevating it to some sort of public or capitally punishable crime and you and your sweet loving spirit do not deserve that- no one does. You can feel great pain for any pain you have caused just because you have a conscience but you can not let it endure forever. That doesn't mean that you do not remember what happened or learn from it but it does mean that you transmute the desire to punish yourself or be punished into better actions in the future and maybe even some attempt at restitution. Anything else is wasted energy and wasted love.
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    Nov 8 2011: A confessional made of wood, metal or any other construction material.
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    Nov 8 2011: Before we can forgive ourself we have to blame or condemn ourself.

    If we don't blame or condemn ourselves, forgiveness is not necessary.

    "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." - Luke 6:37

    [I am not religious ... I just like scripture.]
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    Nov 8 2011: From my own personal expiriance- anderstanding.
    anderstanding owerselves, what we felt then.. what we knew then...
    anderstanding helps us forgive. Can not do without.
    Best Luck, Hagit
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    Nov 8 2011: My dictionary defines "forgiveness" as "stopping feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake". So the question then becomes: how long do you need to keep feeling anger or resentment?

    Whatever the offense, flaw or mistake that brought about the anger or resentment, it cannot be any greater than you, for you are a part of God having a human experience. Thus, feeling the anger or resentment is merely a temporary thing that points toward the need for your greater understanding. Accept the feelings on that basis, examine your motives and choices, and learn. The sooner you do that - with or without the help of others - the sooner the anger or resentment go away and you return to a place of peace within yourself.

    When you know you are a part of God, forgiving yourself is easy ... and that IS the deepest part of you. I suspect that when you "delved deeper" you got stuck somewhere in your subconscious or reactive mind, and didn't yet reach the deepest part of you. Keep learning, as you keep educating!
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      Nov 8 2011: John,
      You ask an important question..."how long do you need to keep feeling anger or resentment?" The feeling of anger, resentment or blame toward ourselves or others is ours to hold onto as long as we want, and it is a choice huh? To go deeper, we could ask the question...how does it serve us to hold onto those feelings? Do we feel that we don't deserve forgivness? Do we need to punish ourselves? Was the "flaw" or "mistake" so bad that we can never forgive ourselves or others? Asking the questions of our "self", often reveals information that CAN cause the feeling to be "merely a temporary thing that points toward the need for your greater understanding", as you so insightfully say.

      The challenge arises, when in an effort to go deeper with an exploration, people go deeper into blaming themselves, rather than using it as an opportunity to learn and grow in themselves. They often get "stuck" in the blaming, rather than actually moving deeper with understanding. Same information...different process and intent. As you say, we can accept the feelings, and learn by examining motives and choices. Know thyself:>)
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    Nov 8 2011: Hi Meyla !

    Wow...did this conversation ever take off! Great question!

    BTW...it was a friend's suggestion to watch the Brene Brown video, that brought me to TED in the first place.

    The willingness to be vulnerable is certainly a requirement for self-forgiveness. Each of us have aspects of ourselves which we would rather not recognize, process, and integrate into our awareness... usually deep seated fear, grief, and anger...and more often than not, near the core...a sense of shame.

    Children who were emotionally abandoned or abused ( and the degree of harm does NOT matter), often have a difficult time later in life turning inwards, because that would mean re-awakening the pain that they have spent most of their lives trying to escape...the feeling that they are flawed as human beings, that they are un-lovable for who they are, and that what occurred in the past was their fault.

    Children who grow up in these difficult environments cannot conclude otherwise, because when the violations to Self occurred, they were often unable to name the dysfunctions that were happening. They had nothing with which to compare their given reality, and so didn't realize how dysfunctional it actually was. And even if they could see it, or name it...they were so totally dependent on their primary care-givers, who often themselves had un-resolved childhood wounds, they would not dare speak up and claim that something was seriously out of wack ! In a sense, the child is trapped and falsely concludes, its his or her fault.

    Until these deeper wounds are healed, by exposing them to oneself and another loving person, the chance of genuine self-forgiveness is next to nil. In other words, as long as I am in condemnation of my self or another, the deeper wound is still trying to heal.

    I don't know if this will be of help to you Meyla, or if it can even be considered a framework.

    But I hope the willingness to turn inward and heal is already active in you!

    Take care of your true Self !
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      Nov 9 2011: A worthy contribution, Don. Thank you.
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      Nov 9 2011: Hi Don,
      I've tried to find out what "TGAA" stands for.

      Trying Google I found several options:
      1) "Thyroglobulin Autoantibodies"
      2) "Texas General Arbitration Act"
      3) "Tournament Golf Association of America "
      4) "Turf Grass Association of Australia"
      5) "Tall Grass Arts Association"
      6) "Trade and Globalization Assistance Act"
      7) "Transgendered in Adelaide, Australia"
      8) "Trap Ground Allotment Association"

      which one is perfect?
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          Nov 12 2011: Don, I'm glad it wasn't the transgedered in Adelaide.

          Your passion: "This is the underlying truth of all ancient beliefs which says overcome Vice with Virtue."

          As one lives by the heart doesn't one always act to his/her ability.

          As understanding grows virtue grows naturally. Virtue isn’t what has to be done but what one has become. If we know and see in the other, in nature another expression of your TGAA we can’t deny our love.

          Does that make sense?
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          Nov 13 2011: Hi Don,
          If you look back at point 7 of the findings from Google on GTAA you see where that "TransGendered AA" came from. This sure is perfect on it's own merits but not what you refered to.

          I know about Freemasonry. I've no questions about it.

          I made a remark about acting without doing.
          Being just the instrument in the hands of GTAA.

          I hope I made myself more clear.
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      Nov 13 2011: QUOTE: "We are never as perfect as TGAA and that is OK. Our passion and fear will remain with us to keep us fully alive and that is good."

      If we strive for perfection, we shall never achieve it. If we look to discover whether perfection is present or not, we may discover it (or not.) And we may be closer than we think.

      The definition of "perfection" that I absorbed growing up was something along the lines of: "Without blemish or fault, flawless."

      Trying to live up to that ideal (which I did try to do for a while in my youth) is doomed to failure.

      Then, somewhere along the way, a wise friend, quite independently, offered this definition of perfection:

      "Everything in its proper place."

      I found that to be quite liberating.

      With that as an objective - everything in its proper place - we might actually be able to reach the lofty heights contained in such admonishments as:

      Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
  • Nov 7 2011: Good question Meyla. For me iits recognizing we humans sometimes err; we are not omniscient or perfect. However, if we have a concept we are valuable on High, then we are confident of who we are regardless of mistakes. A really bad error may take some time for healing, but a genuine desire to move God-ward can be a powerful force with love in reaching for a better life. We do err, but hey, so do a lot of people. We have to let some things go; Divinity does not intend we live driven by guilt. We can stand up with confidence we are children of a Paradise Parent who lives His children.
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      Nov 9 2011: Amen, and well spoken, Mark.

      I have a friend who insists that everything is absolutely perfect exactly as it is, and that anyone who doesn't realize that is misperceiving and misunderstanding. I love this friend, and accept that he may well be right ... however, I am one of the majority of humans who still misperceives and misunderstands some things, and thus I, like you, perceive mistakes and recognize the need for healing. Thankfully, there are many among us who also realize the truth of your words. "Divinity does not intend we live driven by guilt. We can stand up with confidence we are children of a Paradise Parent who lives His children."

      Again, amen.
  • Nov 7 2011: For me, the difference between 'having forgiven' end 'not having forgiven' is the associated emotions. When I have truly forgiven there is no need to push unpleasant feelings away when memories to the event (if it was an event) surface for some reason.

    The point with emotions is that they do not listen to logic and neither to reasoning. These actions of the thinking have (best-case) only the effect of covering up the emotion which may seem to work for that moment but only until too prudent memories to the issue surface..

    i experience lately that emotions respond best to being felt instead of being pushed away (because logic or judgment tells me that they are not appropriate)

    -So my first part of a framework is to establish that it is about emotions (not about logic or other kind of thinking)
    -the goal is to unwind or resolve these emotions
    For this to happen
    -i have found that it is important is to feel the emotions

    and by doing this i have learned that
    -Thinking usually doesn't help me feel (.. on the contrary if often takes me out of feeling)
    -not having Opinions/Judgment about the emotions does help the feeling

    i could say a lot more about it, but leave it with this for now
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      Nov 8 2011: OK arjan, I am giving you an opportunity to say more, particularly about emotions. Your observation that "emotions respond best to being felt instead of being pushed away" is a delight for me to read. One thing I learned only a couple years ago is that emotions are "made up of all kinds of thoughts and feelings" (Lazaris). I found this extremely helpful to understanding what I am observing in the emotional realm. And with this understanding, I interpret what you say about "it is about emotions (not about logic or other kind of thinking)" as: you seem to be emphasizing the feelings component of the emotion over the thinking component. And I suggest that while, yes, the key is to "unwind or resolve these emotions" by feeling the feelings, you cannot ignore the thinking component of the emotions. The thought can be looked at, re-evaluated and changed, and that is key to allowing the feeling to change. A better thought births a better feeling. So when you say "thinking usually doesn't help me feel" I would suggest instead that any thinking that leads you to feeling less - or feeling worse - is thinking that is indeed going in the wrong direction. In which case, yes, stop thinking and take a step backwards and look around you ... allow your thinking to go in a different direction. It will find a direction that feels better, and you're on your way! Thank you for inspiring me to share this here!
      • Nov 9 2011: actually john, where i learned this feeling stuff they say that ALL thinking is driven by emotion .. this is the other way around of what most people in the west believe and if this is true then you don't think your way out of this :-)
        to illustrate, a simple example seemingly contradicting this is this:
        suppose you're feeling annoyed because someone pushes you in the back in the street ..
        you turn around to respond appropriate and find that this someone is blind!!
        result: the annoyance vanishes!! because the blind cannot help it .. right?
        ->the thinkers say, you see .. thinking makes the emotions ... q.e.d.
        ->the feelers say: it were the emotions that made you assume that the push was out of carelessness or rudeness. these emotion was already there before the push, you could also be eg surprised when someone pushes you in the street.
        When you resolve the issues generating this latent emotion, the person will respond differently the next time he is pushed.. interesting .. right?
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          Nov 9 2011: OK, arjan, let's look at emotions some more. I am compelled to start with awareness, consciousness, because without consciousness neither thoughts nor feelings have any meaning nor effect. Consciousness is the source, as near or far as I can discern. Consciousness is our existence and our basic nature. And consciousness, for me, exists independent of time and space.

          Now for any action to occur, there must be a thought, and for any thought, there will be a feeling. Which comes first? Heck, I really don't know ... and I'm not sure it matters. What matters to me is that both thought and feeling interact, and that interaction is defined as emotion. Emotions are real, and they are attached to actions, and they serve to direct our thoughts and actions. But all of these are part of an ever-changing flow, and they come and go.

          I'm a guy, from Western culture. Thus one would conclude I have been influenced more by thoughts than by feelings, and people have tended to tell me that I am more of a thinker than a feeler. OK, but knowing what I know now, I conclude that I'm out of balance in this regard, and so I'm paying more conscious attention to the feelings that inevitably accompany my thoughts ... and that feels better. I achieve resolution more quickly and easily.

          I have no cause to argue with "the thinkers" nor "the feelers"; I simply thank them for their contributions to my better understanding of emotions in my life, allowing me to "right" my personal balance between the 2.