How to Forgive Yourself After You’ve Messed Up
Every now and then you may hear the sayings, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” or “Make hay while the sun shines.”
None of us is perfect enough to follow these pieces of advice devotedly. Making sure that we do the right things at the right time can be difficult. Selecting the correct option always and winning the game called Life at every turn seems impossible. You see, we are humans to begin with, and that is what we will remain until the end of time.There is no eternal benevolence that shines brightly in our minds – there isn’t a button we can activate that will lead to good things and correct decisions. Although there are many who would like to sell us a quick fix, our salvation is the beginning of a life filled with steadfast devotion, mindful intention, and following the path that Christ has revealed to us and continues to reveal through our faith and journey with Him.
A proof of our humanity is that we are programmed with flaws. We have to learn to accept that no matter what we do or how well we did in the past, we will take falls, make mistakes, and hurt during our lives.
Look at all the great personalities of the world – those who have lived before us and those who inhabit the world while we do. All of them faltered, stumbled, and fell! There are no exceptions to this fundamental rule of life, aside from Jesus of Nazareth.
Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln are role models for millions across the globe. They represent the ideal and perfect figure that parents want their children to aspire to become. All of them personify virtues that are untainted. It is certainly difficult to scale such heights, but nonetheless, this lesson should be learned.
Do you know what sets them apart from most of us? Their ability to learn from their mistakes and stand up straight again. Yes, this is cliché, but at the same time, true. Like the way we are meant to fail sometimes, we are programmed to learn as well!
Our mistakes can be of various degrees. We mess up in our lives often. I know I have – some mistakes were graver than the others. Many times I could not fix the problems, and I struggled to do away with the heaviness in my heart. Like everybody else, I am a machine destined to fail and fall flat on my face sometimes.
This does not mean that I support committing deliberate mistakes. Repeatedly harming someone with intent, knowing that it is not correct, is by no means a commendable act.
For me, the troubles that arose because of a severe lack of judgment, the birth of previously not felt emotions, or even the ones that you concocted and later questioned, are more important to heal. Most of these emotions take form when we are vulnerable, and we become their prey. At times like these, we suffer from different dilemmas – ones that we are scared to discuss with others. Certain experiences can be difficult to share.
Do not worry; this realization takes time and a lot of thought. It does not spring upon on you suddenly and grant you all the foreknowledge in the world. The most essential part of this process is to come to terms with your own self, and trust me – that is not an easy road! This is why I try putting down my experiences and feeling in words. I hope it helps people who, like me, are hesitant to share some things and do not have anybody to turn to.
Regret Helps You Set Things Right
I cursed myself the day I did not help a small child on the streets writhing in hunger, and the day my lips threw foul words to my friend of 14 years who refused to talk to me for a long, long time after the incident. Replays of those events constantly circulated in my head. The thoughts did not leave me during work, dinner, or even when I tried sleeping. The scenes kept coming back to haunt me.
What if I had helped the little boy that day? Maybe I could have given him something to eat. Is he still hungry? Will he fall ill?
Maybe if I had not said those things to my friend, we would not have had such an ugly fight! Would we have been okay if I had just apologized?
I do not have answers to any of these questions; neither can I go back in time and fix what has already happened. Life rarely gives us second chances. It never provides the opportunity to relive moments or change outcomes. That’s a bit harsh, right? I know. We have only one way out – one that is rocky and filled with ups and downs. That is, to come to terms with ourselves. To understand and empathize with our inner selves, negotiate with problems, understand and identify the root causes is the path.
You need to discover your inner self in order for this process to work fully. It is a tiring process – one that asks you to question your actions, to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight the numerous good characteristics that you have, to fine-line your shortcomings, and to provide constant encouragement.
This inner-self has great powers to motivate you to come back on the right track even if you have failed like you were destined to. It works wonders when you are at your lowest and do not know which way to turn or who to seek help from.
The same inner-self aids you in seeing where you made mistakes, while always being there and protecting you from the sensation which indicates despair. It helps you to focus on moving forward with your life while giving the mistakes their due weight.
Do not ever make the mistake of reading emotions such as shame or guilt as means with which the world punishes you. They are not meant to serve the purpose of penalizing you. These emotions teach you to take care of situations like this in the future. All of them are geared toward making you a better person so you do not commit the same mistakes again. Remember, they should not translate into a ritual that keeps inflicting pain on you.
Steps to Follow in Your Quest for Forgiveness
If I were to be more concise about this, you should be able to recognize your mistakes, identify places where you messed up, and have the capacity to come to terms with them. It is a process that does not take place overnight, and neither does it hint at the entire rundown being easy. I can assure you, if you do it right, you will be on the road to fixing.
Here are some ways to deal with realization and ease the process of removing guilt. All of these have personally worked for me, pulled me out from the dirtiest of quagmires, and helped me to move on with my life. Go ahead and try adopting these small practices to see how they affect your life!
Start knowing yourself
The first step is to know your inner self better. That can only be done once you start giving yourself more time – and not the kind that gets your morale down! An efficient method to do this is to channel your feelings somewhere, preferably onto a page. It helps us to do two things – come to terms with how we feel, and recognize a semblance of care, or a feeling that somebody has an ear to lend.
List your good qualities
Always remember that it is easy to forge and break a meaningful bond with yourself. Make sure that you appreciate this gift and always look for ways to figure out the nice parts and pieces which fit the puzzle. Try listing down the good qualities imbibed in you. You do not have to worry; they are not lost – simply buried under loads and loads of emotional rubble. Prize them out of the depths!
Keep a daily logI think writing a letter or a diary can be immensely helpful, especially in this stage where you are yet to re-discover your bearings. A letter addressed to nobody or a simple “Dear Diary” will do the trick. It is not about who you send these words to, but rather letting the emotions flow onto a page uninterrupted. This comes without worrying about any judgment levied on you – and more importantly, an ability to reflect on all the things that you have been through!
Write, write, write
Vent your feelings. Do not hold back. Everything that irritates you, disturbs you, or even just irks you a little needs to be on the page. Everything that makes you feel happy, the smallest of things that can bring tears to your eyes – WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. This process gives you more clarity than you can imagine.
Face your deepest secrets on a page
Once you are done with this, pen whatever is weighing heavy on your heart and soul. Did you cheat on your better half? Did you lie to your parents? Or did you manage to get into trouble for something that you thought was a joke? Whatever it is, keep in mind that no one can forgive you if you do not start the process yourself.
Having faults is human
Once you have started this process, go ahead and embrace all of your faults and the mistakes that do not let you sleep at night. Nobody can forgive you if you do not cut yourself some slack first. The more you succumb to the pressure and guilt, fewer avenues will be available for you to get out of this pit. The first step to forgive yourself is identifying the guilt as well as understanding the far-reaching consequences it might have had!
Ponder your actions
Move on to explaining why you think that act or the thought in itself is something to be regretted, and how it has affected your life in a manner that is altogether different. Whatever you are experiencing is definitely not easy, nor is it nice all the time. Also, remember that there is nobody apart from you who can fix it. Accepting the guilt and justifying your remorse are two very important pillars in the process of moving on and restarting.
Ask yourself why
While you are doing this, keep going back to what hurt you the most and pushed you to feel this way. The disappointed look on your partner’s face? Stomach turning when you realized your actions were not okay? All of these feelings are important. They guide you toward better understanding your guilt. They are the anchors of the largely troubled section of life!
You can also try to categorize the different mistakes and faults you have made and are aware of. Shift them into categories about guilt, lack of mindfulness, and dismissal. Make as many categories as you want, keeping in mind that guilt and mistakes go according to their proportion in different categories.
Some require more attention than the others. The ones that you have categorized as faults of your own mindset will have to be dealt with equal moral penance. The ones that originated from a lack of attention to detail or forgetfulness teach you to perform better in the future. If you committed a mistake without even realizing, you should become more aware of your surroundings.
For example, if you thought ragging a freshman in college is okay because it comes from an age-old tradition and still felt guilty after it, it must be categorized under the same section where all your faults pertaining to a lack of knowledge or blindly following faith lie.
If you have spread rumors about an individual knowingly and that have actively harmed their reputation in the area they inhabit, you must categorize it under the section of unmediated faults. Make sure you work extra hard on this one!
Start the process of forgivingOnce you are done with this process of noting your faults down, start with forgiving yourself. If you have accepted the mistakes you have made, distinguish between the past and present first. You do not have to take all burdens upon yourself. Remember that just because you are capable of making mistakes, you are not responsible for every single thing on the face of this earth.
Make amends, as much as you can, but do not go overboard and exhaust yourself. Remember that the smallest acts of benevolence can transform to something magical and more powerful than you can ever imagine. The power with which acts of this nature resonates is commendable!
Meet that old friend you have been ditching for months now, take a trip down to your grandparents’ house, or maybe teach kids how to read and write on the weekend! Going to a pet adoption center and playing with the furry little creatures or spending some time at a soup kitchen giving back to the community might provide immense pleasure and a sense of redemption.
Apologize to the person or people you have wronged. Tell them everything that you have been through so far and why you now think your actions were unjustified, uncalled for, and not right. All the experience you have gathered from this healing process will help you.
They might not want to listen to you. They might keep complaining about how everything is now and there is no point in trying to fix things anymore. They might tell you that things are beyond repair. You have to stay strong and do your bit. Make sure that you leave a note or a letter dictating your faults and how you have overcome all of it.
First believe in your own apology
Say it to yourself aloud in a strong and confident voice that you want to be forgiven and have already started the process. Tell yourself in a strong and confident voice that you are willing to and already have changed yourself. You are no longer the same person who started the journey. It will be a different you who ends it.
Maturity comes with time
People mature over time. They grow better and more aware of their surroundings. You know why? Because the world is a big bad place and everybody has their fair share of experiences. These experiences form who we are and what we are to become in the future. We make all our choices based on this. If in this process of growing up we call bad shots, it is up to us to fix it. What most of us do not realize in this everlasting process of growing up is people are meant to learn from their mistakes!
Give time its due significance
Another clichéd thing to say is, “time heals everything.” Trust me; it is these small things that help you go a long way in life. Have faith in time – there is no better medicine than this. Once you open the door and allow time to take its course, it works its magic in more ways than one!
Time makes old friends miss you and forgive you for all that you had done in the past. Time gives people enough space to think and consider their reactions to multiple things in life. Time weaves a bond among all friends, irrespective of the fights – strong and wonderful!
Do all of this and make sure you put your heart to it. There is no replacement for sincerity and hard work. If you have made a mistake, try to fix it with everything you have. Moving on is not easy, but it does not have to be an excruciating surgery kept on for multiple days on the trot. It is as simple as you make it, always entangled with facing your innermost feelings and apprehensiveness.
You do not have to worry about making mistakes – we all do it. The ones who pass the test are those who learn from it!
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