Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Ask a person what their interests are or how they like their crush and they can tell you in great detail. But ask them about self-forgiveness, it’s not only something that would throw them off, it becomes personal. In some cases, you’ll probably get a blank stare or a change of topic.
The path to forgiveness is a long one; so long it drives you to give up too often. It’s even harder to fathom that some of us deserve forgiveness. We are always a suicidal person telling another suicidal person to let go of the past and forgive ourselves, and yet—
And yet, we are still killing ourselves every other day.
Much younger, I was sexually coerced, and other things happened. Then gaslighted, then made to tolerate the verbal abuse. Being when everything he did for me was love when it was just narcissism. Nothing was the same for me again. I spent the next few years feeling guilt. Feeling sick looking at my reflection and thinking about how I might have made different decisions. Decisions that could have prevented what happened. For the first time, I felt as if the word “no” had lost its meaning.
And I tried.
I really tried.
For years, I tried to do all the “right” things to help myself through the trauma.
So where did this leave me? It’s insane. I’ve always kept going, kept pushing, but the only reason why I had been able to go far wasn’t for the right reason. That’s what damage does: Verbal abuse changes you beyond recognition. You don’t even recognize yourself. Once you awake to this abuse, you can no longer go back to sleep. You are forced to evolve and transform. Get stronger. I had a lot of anger and compulsive desire to fix what I had lost. Revenge was the only thing that motivated me to do better. For years, that person became the focus of my pain. But that was all there was to it. I was holding onto resentment; setting myself on fire and hoping the other person chokes on my fume. Dousing more gasoline each time.
Eventually, I chose to let it go.
I was hurting a lot. Hurting because it was tiring to have anger residing in the heart. It ate away a huge part of me. Forgiveness isn’t something one forces or pretends to show. Forgiveness happens only when one opens their heart to it. The smallest steps to recovery takes place when we believe it is possible for us to heal. Even now, I am still learning what it’s like to forgive myself.
I forgave him.
Then chose to reflect on the other things I’ve done in my life, to see what else needed forgiveness. When I did, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know where to start. There were too many things bottled up. Too many unresolved feelings. Too many questions unanswered. And just too much disappointment. But I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to believe the made-up stories my inner critic might tell me. So I did it, I chose to be quiet. In the silence, I thought out loud in my head that I deserve forgiveness, that I was worth something. It felt uncomfortable. Of course it did. Because anything worth fighting for has the tendency to be uncomfortable. And I am absolutely worth fighting for.
And so are you.
You are absolutely worth fighting for.
Some of us are in a dark place, some of us are still healing—some of us aren’t necessarily surrounded by love. Self-forgiveness is something else. But also, forgiving ourselves isn’t something magical. Not one where you suddenly find all your problems vanishing. No, but it gives you a chance to fix those problems. And what’s beautiful about it, you start caring about yourself— even if it’s just a little day by day.
And I know it’s easier said than done. It’s also not impossible. We all have some point in our lives where we messed up (big time), it might have affected us and even the people around us… that only means we are human. We don’t live in the past anymore. Why do we still beat ourselves up over it and let it dictate our own self-worth? There is no time machine here. We can’t go back and make things different. But, we can forgive ourselves. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. If it’s too hard to forgive yourself at this point, try making peace with the situation. It happened. You are human. You deserve forgiveness. You deserve peace. You deserve to be liberated from the fetters that hold you back. You are worth so much more.