5 Stages Of Self-Forgiveness


In a world where we do not ask but demand things without furrowed brows or earned dues, we find it incredibly difficult to pardon ourselves of mistakes – and nearly impossible to grant ourselves absolute repentance. We sentence ourselves to a period of scars and burden our shoulders with self-blame. We must endure the stages in between “fucked up” and “forgiven.”

1. Denial

At first, we have no issues forgiving ourselves, because we don’t think we did anything wrong or anything that wrong. We bless ourselves with a “screw-up” quota and pass around a collection plate, dropping our indiscretions in the bucket and accusing anyone who makes a comment or snide remark of throwing stones. Stubborn and proud, we tell our spectators they are “overreacting” and typically, we fulfill our “screw-up quota” until we spiral into a head-on collision.

2. Self-loathing

Once we look at what we’ve done or what we’ve said (or what we haven’t done or haven’t said) we begin to internalize our mistakes; we allow our demons to consume us and whisper negative affirmations; in one ear, and out–our saving grace. We start to emotionally-mutilate ourselves, skinning away self-respect and anything that resembles love or esteemed acceptance. We wander through the maze of our psyche, attempting to hear a tree fall. We begin to believe we are rooted in terrible decision making and do not deserve the forgiveness we know we need.

3. Resolution / Bargaining

Once we whack through the branches or tumbleweeds, we are ready to pronounce and exclaim …everything; our faults, our grievances but namely empty promises. “I will never drink again.” “I will never lie again.” “I will never binge-eat again.” “I live never do it again.” “I will never be kind to those undeserving again.” “I will never give my unsolicited advice again.” Made with good intentions, they are soon to fall short due to poor preparation. Blind to see that a pure future cannot reverse a blemished past, many of us will soon start all the way back at “denial” in no time. We are born sinners. Bestowing an idea of perfection of crisp, rational decision making is far-fetched. More intoxicated than we were when we made the mistakes, we are drunk on hope that we are about to be the person on a pedestal, who does not exist.

4. Realistic Resolution/Lesson Learned

So as we sprint into the future with excitement, we are bound to stumble or become winded. Looking to replenish, we recall an old fable and remind ourselves slow and steady wins the race. We take a moment to sit and reflect. We can mentally rotate the Rubik’s Cube of how’s, why’s, and self-disgust. We ultimately piece together a strategy and realistic plan. We fill our journals with words and learned wisdom. We lift the pen, go over our words carefully, and close the chapter.

5. Liberation/Repentance

At this point, we know we can only ask and accept. Ask ourselves why we chose to do or say what we did; accept the consequences. Ask for forgiveness; accept the grace or mercy given to us. Ask for guidance; accept the advice. Ask ourselves for forgiveness; accept we are not perfect and always, always deserve to begin again and have a heart full of hope for better days.