Can you recall a time when someone wronged you and then later apologized for their actions? Despite how upset you might have been originally, chances are you forgave them. Now think for a moment and ask yourself, are you as quick to forgive yourself when you are the one who has messed up? Not likely.
Why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes? Everyone does it. Yet, we tend to give ours more weight, holding on to guilt and shame for weeks or even years. The process of forgiving ourselves is equally as important as forgiving others.
The first step to forgiving yourself is acknowledging the reality of the situation. Try to get clear on the events leading up to your mistake and what you were thinking at the time. What elements were out of your control? Was the mistake a moral or ethical transgression? If so, you know where to focus your future spiritual work. Or was the mistake simply a result of inability? To expect yourself to perform beyond the skills you held at the time is unrealistic. When you can see the whole picture, you can begin to ease up on yourself, knowing that you made the best decision and acted in the best way you could at the time.
Realize that you are not a bad person. Good people make bad choices. “There are no negative souls,” says Michael Berg. “All souls are righteous, and we are all in the process of correction. Even when we see something as negative, we must remember that there is tremendous holiness within it.” The mistakes we make are meant to keep our egos in check and teach us important lessons about life and about ourselves. When we err, we have the opportunity to face our shortcomings and improve ourselves. Growth and transformation do not happen on a smooth and easy path. Allow yourself to recognize that you are a good person who has faults, just like everyone else.
If you can’t shake the horrible feeling of disappointing others and yourself, consider reaching out for help. It’s healthy to feel remorse for your mistakes. However, shame is not an emotion anyone should carry with them in the long term. Speaking with a spiritual leader, counselor, or friend could be helpful in gaining perspective and easing your conscience.
Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the role you played in it, take responsibility for your mistake. Keep in mind that you are not responsible for what was out of your hands, but resist the urge to pass blame. Acknowledge what you could have done differently. With a deeper understanding of the situation and a clear picture of your participation, you can avoid making the same mistake in the future. “There is never any spiritual falling without redemption,” says Michael Berg. “No soul falls forever. With deeper spiritual insight, we realize that every soul, no matter how low it might seem, is in a process of correction.” Once you make that correction, it’s time to let go and move on.
Each of our paths is unique. We are all working on correction of one kind or another. It’s natural to cringe over things that happened in the past. Yet, keep in mind that if we never made any mistakes, the Light we would reveal through our spiritual work would be far less. As Michael Berg puts it, “Everything that we did wrong yesterday makes this Light today shine even brighter.” Let your past blunders make today more beautiful.