Unforgiveness and Depression
One of the sad facts of life is that we all make mistakes. We all hurt people. We all sin. But that doesn’t make us “bad people.” We are human, and thus, fallible. None of us are perfect, so to expect perfection of yourself is an exercise in futility. One thing I learned in talk therapy is that regrets are useless. Regrets and unforgiveness create pain and depression, but you don’t have to allow it.
It is difficult to accept our own imperfections, but in order to forgive ourselves, we have to accept them. Think of the pain you feel when you’ve hurt someone else, and that person refuses to forgive you. Well, believe it or not, it hurts even more when you don’t forgive yourself. The pain is there, but until you realize that it is self-inflicted, you can’t let it go.
There are so many people who are carrying the baggage of unforgiveness. Without forgiving others, the pain that they inflicted on you never leaves. It can’t heal because you don’t let it heal. The people who hurt you aren't being hurt if you hold onto the pain, and refuse to forgive them. That only hurts you. But what do you do when the person who hurt you is yourself? You must forgive yourself.
One of the things that sometimes helps us to forgive is to look at the intentions of the person who hurt us—even if that person is yourself. You are judging yourself for something you did that goes against your own moral beliefs, or something you did that hurt someone you love. Why did you do it? Chances are, either it was unintentional, or you had a good reason for what you did.
However, regardless of the circumstances, you still have to let it go in order to heal yourself. Okay, so you did something wrong. If you want to get past it, take the following steps:
*Acknowledge the offense to the offended.
*Apologize to the offended for the offense.
*Ask for forgiveness from the person offended.
*Try to make amends for the offense.
*Don’t do it again. (But if you do, go through these steps again.)
*And then forgive yourself!
You don’t have to wait for the person you hurt to forgive you, before you forgive yourself. She might not ever forgive you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t forgive yourself. If she chooses to hold onto that pain after you’ve tried to make it right, you are not responsible for her choice.
The most important step in forgiving is to simply make the decision to do it. You don’t have to “feel” it yet. That will come with time. But decide to forgive, and speak the following acknowledgement aloud:
“I choose to forgive (name of person/myself) for (action). I choose not to hold onto the pain associated with this offense. I am not saying that what this person did to me is okay, but I’m saying that I choose not to seek retribution or retaliation for (his/her) actions. (Name of person), I forgive you. Thank you, God, for putting forgiveness in my heart and cleansing my soul.”
Then, put the offense out of your mind. When you are reminded of it, tell yourself aloud that the offense no longer has control over your thoughts or feelings because it is forgiven. Allow yourself to feel the freedom you gain in forgiving others, or even more importantly, in forgiving yourself. As time passes, the pain will ease, and the weight of the offense will be lifted.
If you are one of the many people who has been beating yourself up for things you’ve done in the past, it’s time to stop it right now! Follow the steps to forgiveness, and forgive. If those steps are not possible because of death or inaccessibility of the offenders, then speak the acknowledgement anyway, and mean it. Repeat it as many times as you feel necessary. Over time, the depression related to the offense, as well as the unforgiveness, will ease, and your heart will be much lighter.
(Forgiving does not mean that you allow yourself to be abused, or that you must continue to subject yourself to the hurtful actions of others. You must forgive, but continued relationship with the person who hurt you is at your own discretion.)
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