On Regret and Forgiving Ourselves

Forgiving yourself, or accepting your past actions as past and subsequently living your life looking forward is one of the hardest things to do. As humans, we are capable of regret. We have the ability to feel wrong about things we have done, how we have treated people, and what those situations have resulted in. Regret shows heart, and embodies much of what it means to be a good human being, because so much of being a human being is about being flawed, imperfect, and making mistakes. But what part of that is good? It is not the imperfect actions, but rather the ability to recognize that an action was in fact, imperfect, is what makes us good. Regret, though often construed as negative, can be a good thing if it is put to use, and is an instrumental tool in learning how to forgive.

Hindsight on negative actions is an evolution of regret. It holds its roots in feeling sorry for the repercussions of an action, yet it sees what needs to be changed and prepares for the correction. It is the action that leads to forgiveness. However, regretting and obtaining hindsight is not nearly the hardest part about forgiving yourself. Any person can recognize an action as wrong and something that needs to be changed in the future. The last part of forgiveness, acceptance, is the hardest part.

Accepting past actions as ones that cannot be undone, and simultaneously clearing our consciences is the hardest part. It is hard because so often we look at forgiveness as reconciling the action, when in fact we should be forgiving something completely different. When we forgive, we forgive the person that committed the action—not the action itself. By doing this, we recognize that there is more good and more to the person than their blunder, and most importantly, more to their humanity. No action that held a negative result can be undone, but the methods by which we act and live that led to these actions can be changed.

There will come a time where you commit an action that you wish you had not, but if you hold regret in your heart forever, no progress will be made. If you allow your regret to evolve into hindsight however, and from this platform allow yourself to make a change and tell yourself that it is okay to be human, you will live a righteous and honest life.

Forgiveness of self is a hard thing to do because most times, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do other people. We find it harder to recognize that we too are human, and we too make mistakes that affect both others and ourselves in a negative way. Unlike forgiving another person, an action committed or a decision made that is recognized by the self as not okay can only be attributed to the person that we are—nobody wants to see themselves in a negative light. But forgiveness exists for a reason, and mistakes are what allow us to be better. Because we are not perfect, we can strive to be, and as much as we are limited by our imperfection, we are enabled. So hold no grudge against the person you were when you acted or decided, because any action has the potential for lesson. Any action, even if at the time is wrong action, guards against forever living in the indifferent gray area that knows neither defeat nor victory.

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