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Self-Forgiveness, Forgiveness & Apologies

According to Wikipedia... "Self forgiveness and/or forgiveness is the intentional & voluntary process by which one...undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding a given offense, and overcomes negative emotions."

An quote on the grace of forgiveness by John Connolly alongside a cup of tea


As Mahatma Gandhi once said...

When we forgive ourselves, we are remembering that place of goodness and wholeness within us.


Self-forgiveness—the process of accepting the inevitability of mistakes by refusing to let them define us—is crucial to our sense of self worth and important to having a healthy outlook on life.

Forgiving yourself is critical to your happiness and personal growth. We all do and say terrible things in life, it's part of what makes us human—heck, it's the reason a site like ours (on apologies) can even exist.

The trick in being successful as human beings is to accept the actions of our past, to always remember them for the future, and most importantly to use them as a learning experience.

However, some feel that their actions aren't worthy of forgiveness and can't seem to move on. But as mere mortals, we must accept our faults and learn from them, which is impossible to do without the ability to forgive yourself.

There are those who turn to prayer by asking a higher power for the strength to forgive but never forget. Their self forgiveness prayer is often similar to the one below:

Dear Lord,
I humbly ask you to give me the strength to face all of my past sins and actions, the will to never forget them, and the power to forgive myself so that I may grow in your grace and be the servant of God that you want me to be...

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
(Romans 3:23).

For those who take a more secular approach, the process of self forgiveness may begin with an apology to themselves. They believe the mere act of apologizing—taking the time to craft an apology and suffering the consequences of delivering it—can help to re-establish a positive self image and inevitably lead to self-forgiveness.

Several of our readers have taken the time to craft an apology to themselves as a first step in healing. They seek to forgive their actions and behavior towards themselves and/or others, and are worth the read.

The most important takeaway in all of this is that without the ability of self-forgiveness there really is no way to move or grow as human beings.

Read some helpful tips from Psychology Today on how to forgive yourself and move on from the past.

Forgiveness From Others

Forgiving someone and forgiveness in general, is a very personal decision that is never really open to useful advice or guidance.

We are agnostic about when and under what conditions people should accept an apology or forgive those responsible for hurting them.

Below is a question posed to us by one of our readers that asks, when is an apology worthy of forgiveness along with our answer. Perhaps it will help illustrate the only type of guidance we can offer.

Q  Last year I found out my daughter had been abused 6 yrs previously by a cousin when she was 11 and he was 17. We wrote to him explaining that we did not want to see him again. He must not try to contact our daughter. She had had a breakdown.

From his parents we received a brief typed letter that said they understood her feelings, that their son had received God's forgiveness and he was very upset because allowed to make it up to her.

It also requested we meet to reconcile ourselves with them (his parents). We had never shown or felt any animosity towards them. It was then signed "yours sincerely".

Am I wrong to feel this is an inadequate apology considering it is not from the wrong doer, it has no real apology, it shows very little remorse, and is very formal.

The family are accusing us of causing a family feud because I refused to accept it as a heartfelt apology.

A  We at Perfect Apology are silent on questions about when people should "accept" an apology, or why (and how) they should forgive someone who is responsible for hurting them or someone they love.

We certainly offer advice on how to craft an apology to increase your chances of being forgiven, but we can't tell anyone when to accept an apology.

These are very personal decisions and often people who receive even the most perfect of apologies are just not ready to forgive, for very personal reasons.

In this particular case, your refusal to forgive is so much more understandable because the apology did not come from the person responsible for your daughter's terrible, life changing experience.

But there may be more than one person in this case with an obligation to apologize for whatever measure of responsibility they feel they deserve for the abuse your daughter suffered.

You are right to reject the parents' 'typed' letter (their first mistake) as a genuine apology to your daughter, but only you can decide whether their apology is worthy of some measure of forgiveness.

Whatever you decide to do in this case IS the right answer.

This was obviously a very serious issue but regardless of the severity, for whatever reason, some people are simply not prepared to forgive.

But this fact should have no bearing whatsoever on whether one should take the time to craft a perfect apology. Because without an apology there is no path to forgiveness.

Even when forgiveness is not attainable, there are other reasons that apologies can be helpful when working through a personal crisis.

For example, we often feel compelled to apologize when we've humiliated someone else, but occasionally we need to apologize to those we hurt because WE are humiliated by what we've done.

Forgiveness, Apologies & Self-Love

Remorseful and humiliating errors produce uncomfortable feelings and personal doubts about who we are. They create negative images that directly contradict the primarily positive impressions we have of ourselves.

Serious mistakes that elicit strong feelings of remorse force us not only to question our own character but also raise doubts about whether we actually deserve to be forgiven in the first place.

A perfect apology delivered to ourselves or others will go a long way toward generating the positive feedback we need to manage our personal crises and related feelings of remorse and humiliation.

If people we love and hurt are prepared to forgive us by accepting our apology and moving past our mistake, the message they're sending is that they value our love, the relationship, and respect our character.

The point is that whether or not an apology achieves forgiveness, taking the time to do it right will pay off in the end. It's worth the investment and the only way to attain what we all seek from others and ourselves, forgiveness.

See our selection of forgiveness quotes or read about expressing regret, if you haven't already done so.

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