Forgiving others vs forgiving yourself

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Steely, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    So, I have been contemplating this issue for awhile, and I really need your insight.

    If someone wrongs you and you choose to forgive them, you do not have to be OK with what they did to you, you have to simply accept it happened, chose to forgive, and move on with your life. Generally you either move that person out of your life, or that person changes their actions that offended or upset you.

    But what if the person who has wronged you is yourself? What if I am so mad at myself for some of the choices that I have made, in my life, that I feel like I cannot forgive myself? I can accept the reality that I made those choices, but I cannot forgive myself for making them. Those choices hurt other people - and I have so much hate towards myself for it. How do I reconcile this within myself?

    To make it a bit more clear, this all surrounds familial abuse issues. Choices I made before 13 where I re-enacted the abuse, and then later, letting the abuser take care of Matt many, many times, where he also got hurt. I am trying to write this all down in my book, and it simply takes my breath away how much hate, pure, deep, hatred I have for myself over this. I really never looked at this issue squarely until it was on paper, and I was blown away.

    It is really amazing, how after 43 years, I now realize the gravity of why so much of my life has not been where I want it - because I despise me. Those choices hurt, deeply hurt, the 2 people I love the most in this I will never be able to ask for forgiveness from because she is gone.......and Matt refuses to talk about these issues. He knows I am sorry, and yet, really that helps me in no way. I cannot forgive me, for placing him in the care of this family member, not once but repeatedly, all because this family member loved him and wanted to see him all the time. I had already experienced that road of abuse once, I knew better than to let it happen again to Matt.

    Yet I chose about 10 years ago to forgiven the abuser.
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Maybe you feel that you have not been punished enough or paid penance? Do you think that you could do X amount of hours of community service in some fashion as a payment of that emotional debt? Would that help you feel the scales begin to balance?
  3. Jena

    Jena New Member


    hard work right?? sux. been there too. i think this is a similar thing to what those in aa do. you write down a list of those you have wronged, and you basically apologize to them. they can even be dead ppl write a letter deliver it graveside. this is a process which allows closure to you, the other ppl who may very well be over it, and it is a way for you to get rid of the negativity that lies within you.

    listen you know i think the world of you, and i applaud you for digging so very deep to go on that self exploration journey. yet to be honest i've come to learn there is only so much digging you can do to yourself. the past is the past for a reason. something tells me your on your final leg of it and this will be your final peace.

    you also have to be logical. you made the choices you did for the person you were "back than", all these choices combined are the threads of your life. You wouldn't be the woman you are today, the strong advocate you have always been for Matt had you not gone down the same exact path you did. You will come to love you again, the hate will dissapate. it takes sometime. yet do that exercise i've known ppl who did it and it was huge and very theraputic and offered closure in a quick speedy way so that you can heal from what you have done.

    (((hugs)))) :)
  4. Jena

    Jena New Member

    hey im sorry was in my own little miserable jen world. didn't see your last line that it was matt and one other person who passed. if you have made your peace with Matt than leave it alone. seriously. as far as the other person go graveside if you have to, or write a letter and burn it.

    i've had to forgive myself also for some not so great choices in my life. i did because i had to as you have to in order to proceed and stop chosing men, situations in my life that would purposely beat myself up. (not thinking we deserve more), also my childhood abuse left me feeling dirty, and basically non lovable by anyone with quality and integrity. a whole other can of worms lol.

    listen you'll get there. do a gratitude journal each day not of life yet of you. what you are grateful for in yourself. i think you'll see the list is long. hang in there. sorry about not reading the last line. i'm in a pissy mood and yes im diong some emotional eating right now "fries from bk" :)
  5. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Have the same problem, but it's forgiveness for others. Spending some time in the pokey gave me LOTS of thinking time. I discussed this issue at length with a pastor and still have not reconciled my belief system. I guess I'm just an old, stubborn German woman. I'm pretty good at sucking up a huge amount of pride and admitting my own mistakes. It's a few others I have issues with. I'm not a hugely religious person, but I do pray every day that I get the guidance and strength to make that leap of forgiveness.

    Steely, you've been though a lot. Give yourself a break. Writing your thoughts down can be cathartic, but it can also prolong whatever misery you are carrying. It makes you relive things you'd just rather forget. I'm a big believer in writing, then shredding. I kept a journal for the past few crazy years. Every time I'd read it I'd end up in tears. I am not kidding that I cried and cried as I tore the pages out and shredded them, but it gave a small amount of closure.

    Hugs, dear.
  6. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Steely hon, been there done that. The hardest thing I've ever done. Forgiving others for what they did to me? Hard as hades and it took quite a very long time. Forgiving myself for things I did before I escaped the situation? That was major tough, the hardest thing ever. Forgiving them doesn't mean forgetting.........Doesn't mean that I don't hold them responsible. Just means it is in the past and I know I will never allow myself to be a victim again, enabling me to let it go and move forward.

    We are hardest on ourselves.

    The reason you are struggling so hard with forgiving yourself? Is because you're no longer that person and so you can't understand how on earth you made those choices.

    I also used writing as a form of therapy and the story I wrote was in novel form. Mine is so bad I had to make up the main character, although I knew it was me. ugh And while it can be healing? It can also be overwhelming and extremely painful as you link one memory to the next, most of the memories no one would honestly ever want to remember. Somewhere along the line though I realized how much I'd changed from the person I'd been in those days. Almost as if I've lived 2 separate lives the difference is so vast. Then? I grieved terribly for the person I'd been and how much damage had been done.......and I let her go. Very similar to grieving a much loved family member. I'm not sure if I "forgave" her per se, but I did make peace with her. Which to me is more important.

    Then that enormous "novel" was burned. It had served it's purpose. I can talk about my childhood without it dragging up any of the old emotions ect. I have healed.

    I think in this everyone is different depending on their own situations. I had already done a great deal of therapy before attempting to write it down to work through it, and still there were periods where is was like wading through hades.

    But try to remember when you're being overly hard on yourself, if you were still the person you were back wouldn't be where you are now. You made mistakes, you've worked hard to correct them. No one can ask more of you, not even yourself.

  7. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    OMG, this is huge for me Hound, thank you , thank you, thank you.
    This is what I needed, just an idea on how to make peace.
    You are right, I was so young, and a single mom, and had not dealt with anything in therapy - I was such a different person. I just cannot put this into words, and put it on paper. And I need to in order to make peace with myself.
    I know that writing for many can be written and shredded, but for me, it is a way to make peace with myself and move on. I need to do that with this, be able to articulate why I made such stupid choices, so that I can move on. Then I will have no need to shred it, because I have made peace with it.
  8. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Oh, I have been punishing myself for 20 years - no need for more. The problem is that the punishment has to stop, or I will die. I do not take care of me in any way shape or form - I drink too much, I eat badly, I don't date - I have given up on penance is over..............I have to start living again.
  9. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    It took me 7 years of therapy to just forgive the one person that did this. I totally understand where you are coming from. Forgiveness is vast, and obscure, and once you find how, than you find freedom.
    However, it takes a lot of mental thought and dedication to do so - which is where I am at now in forgiving myself.
  10. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Good. Now convince yourself that it's over and a new you is cocooning and turning into a butterfly. Or some really pretty moth, if you're nocturnal.
  11. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    So the bottom line is..............
    Denial is so powerful that we do things we don't want to do because..........................????
  12. Jena

    Jena New Member

    lol no that isn't the message!! :)

    hound wow she drove it home! amazing sooo insightful. ok done you are now an horonary therapist of the cd board. can i do that? LOL

    denial you aren't there anymore, neither am i!! damn where are those rose colored glasses when we need them?? :)

    it's all good in time just as you told me it falls together. i'm just not high on patience i'm gathering you aren't either?? :)
  13. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Because we hope things will be different? Because it's the only choice available at the time? I don't have an answer, though I do have to agree with HD. I'd suggest that wanting to re-open your sis's case is part guilt except for the fact that I agree the whole thing looks hinky and poorly investigated and it's far from unheard of for an overworked dept to grab the easiest answer and close it out.

    I know I'm bad about forgiving, both others and myself. Blocking and denial is easier and allows me to function (and is safer than my anger). Sometimes it comes back and blindsides me, and sometimes it brings an epiphany with it (not often, but sometimes). Sometimes I'm just able to say "Ok, I really f'ed this up... I can't fix that, so what are my options from here and did I learn anything from it?" Sometimes I just try to believe that my mistakes were training I'll need later down the line.
  14. tawnya

    tawnya New Member

    I think it means you are human, Steely.

    Sometimes it's hard to give yourself a hug.

    That's what we are here for. ((HUGS))
  15. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    As I read this, my heart is breaking for you and also myself. I walk on my knees on glass every day for a thousand miles .as punishment for a thousand things. I take things out on myself. It's the only thing that makes the guilt go away.I haven't even done anything so horrible, and maybe you're taking the things you have done and punished yourself for already- and you keep punishing. Do you think? I forgive you, we're all human. please let it go in some way if you can.

    Maybe some people turn to drugs or alcohol, but you haven't done that. You must for forgive yourself. The people who you have wronged, they understand, you didn't purposely set out to cause wrongdoing. ((((HUGS)))) Please be kind to yourself.
  16. Star*

    Star* call 911


    I think - there is a lot of what my Grandma would call 'rocking chair' thinking in your thoughts. Lots of movement, but not going anywhere. Steely - why do you think it's so hard to forgive yourself? We've all done things in our past we regret. Most of those things you are talking about? I believe were decisions or choices you made because you felt they were the right thing to do, or you didn't know any better. If you are sitting there at 43 thinking back 20 years ago and thinking "I should have done this or I should have done that, and things for Matt would have turned out better or like this." There isn't any way for you to know that. Anymore than there was for you to know at the time that the decisions you were making would turn out like they did - OTHERWISE you never would have made them. Think about that. Had you known at the time you were making those decisions - had you known they were bad choices - WOULD YOU HAVE MADE THEM? Of course not. So why 20 years later are you beating yourself up for decisions and choices that you had NO idea of the outcome? Should is a word that needs to be eliminated out of any forward thinking persons vocabulary. Really - you did what you did at that time because you felt it was the BEST choice, not the worst choice. Had you known any better? You would have made a different choice. End of conversation.

    The people to be angry with in those situations are the people that abused your child and took advantage of you. The time to be angry with them? Was when it happened. Not now, not ninteen years later, not the rest of your life, not the rest of Matts life so he can pity himself and constantly claim to be a victim and use that as an excuse not to move forward in his life. The time to forgive the abuser? Well if you were able to do it? After it happened, but most of us, either hang on to anger or don't know how to forgive because we're not taught how or the anger feels better, or it makes us feel safer because the hurt that happened as a result of the abuse is SO scary - anger makes us think we're protected from it happening again. Doesn't really, just makes us think that. Once we start piling on layers of anger? It's hard to chip it away - it becomes like a security blanket that we really don't want to let go of, because most of us haven't learned how to have anything else to hold on to. We have no one - we've shut everyone else out, we don't know how to be happy - that doesn't come easy for us - because we're used to being sad and angry - it's more familiar, and it's just usually us -'s not that we like it, we just get used to it. Kinda like a dog on a chain in the back yard. That's what I felt like anyway. I had no room for forgiveness - I just did the best I could to surive the day and get through it - alone, trying to be a Mom to Dude, without getting killed by my x. I wasn't living - I was surviving. Basically trapped, and when I got out? I wasn't really sure how to live - I mean I knew how to live - but I had an enormous emount of guilt. So much I needed help, like you I felt like part of me just would die if I didn't get it out of my system. So no matter what? I stuck with the therapist - no excuses-I wanted to be guilt free, happy and a good example for Dude and have a life.

    Forgiveness did not come easy, it did not come cheap, it didn't come quick. It didn't come like I thought it would. To tell you HOW to get it? Sheesh - that would take me 15 years and therapy out the wazoo. I don't know that it is something you can put into words on paper or explain by devine intervention or read this book or try this yoga exercise. Most of me 15 years ago would tell you that forgiveness would only come if all parties that wronged me were dead, but I was too scared to even utter the words. I'm the woman who would literally pee on herself if a car turned around in my driveway thinking we'd been found. Five years later? I was angry at him, them, everyone. THEY had done this. THEY should pay. Oh I was livid. Two years after that? I was angry at myself. Furious. For wasting MY life, and putting my son through this, and for everything lost. It was like a grieving process that went on for years. Then about ten years into therapy I wasn't really angry at anyone, just numb. Nothing. Not in the mood to forgive anyone - but in deep thought. Twelve years into it? Maybe I forgave myself, and that's an ongoing process - but it took and is still taking time and probably gets a little easier with any sign of maturity that I see in Dude, and takes a small dip with every backslide he has. Detachment helps that a lot. Then about fourteen a;most fifteen years into it - my therapist and I were sitting there talking about I can't remember what - just things and he slipped into the conversation something about my x showing up in my drive - what would I do? And I calmly answered without hesitation - just call the police. Not hide in the closet and pee my pants, Not grab a gun, Not walk out in the drive all bravado and claw his skin off with my bare hands, not any of the things that over the years I had gone through the stages of - just calmly and casually "Oh what? yeah - call the police ." and at that the end of the therapy my time was up...and so were my sessions. See I had come full circle - because part of our conversation that day was forgiving myself and that I had in my own way forgiven him - not so much for him, but for myself. Maybe it's hard to understand - but when you forgive others you really forgive yourself for the feelings you had against them. Weird huh? That release is so freeing - you can't imagine. See? I can't ever change my x - I can't go back and fix anything he did to anyone - but the grudge I carried? He has NO idea how huge that is, or how heavy it is - and he never will. He doesn't care or can't - because if it bothered him to be that wicked in the first place? He never would have done those things OR he would have apologized. Neither have ever happend. The closest I have ever gotten to any sort of an apology? -----Seven years ago - he left a message on MY phone and said for me to stop acting like an immature so and so - that everything that had happened to me was water under the bridge and I should really be the bigger person here and pick up the phone.
    To this day I maintain - The man doesn't deserve to even hear me breath after choking the life out of me and leaving me for dead.

    My point is - YOU are the only person in your life that can make changes in your life. YOU are the only person in your life that can stop treating things in your life like a catastrophe, and move on. YOU are the only person in your life that can wake up every morning and look around you and realize - this bad thing happened, but it doesn't define me, it doesn't own me, it doesn't make me - I am in control of me. I choose - and fill in the blank of that new day. You are the only person in your life that too - can look at your child and say to yourself - yes, you were hurt, yes you were damaged, yes you have problems - BUT - this doesn't define you, this doesn't make you who you are - and there are children FAR worse off than you that get up every morning with diseases, and disabilities that would LOVE to have the problems you have - and call them problems. WHAT can you show the world you've overcome?

    You don't have to forgive yourself - You don't have to move on with your life - You don't have to forgive anyone else. But even a tree experiences four seasons and stands in the same place every year, year after year and grows taller and larger. What are you doing with every year of your life?

    Hugs and love
  17. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Steely....I still look back and know that some of the things that have made me the way I am, such as my borderline diagnosis, happened because of the things my mother did to me. I also know that my PTSD stems from the rape that happened 30 years ago. I remember it clearly. I know I did many things wrong to my kids because I emulated my mother because that was the only parenting figure I had to go by. Many times I heard her voice coming out of my mouth and I was instantly appalled and shaken. I really worked hard to break those habits young because I didnt want my kids to grow up like me but sometimes I did fail. I apologized to my kids when they were adults for all the things I did to them when they were younger. I explained my childhood and I explained the fact that I had bipolar but that it wasnt dxd until I was in my late 30's and I wished it had been sooner so I could have been a better mom to them. I will always feel a bit of guilt over this. However, I cant go back and change any of this. They can choose to forgive me and go on or they can choose to use this as a crutch. Mine have forgiven me. If my mom had ever asked for forgiveness I would have jumped at the chance. That would have been all it would have taken for me...just for her to have admitted she made mistakes and she was sorry. She never did. In her mind she was perfect and I was the problem.

    I dont think dwelling on the past does much good. We have enough stuff going on right now that we have to deal with. I dont think we can ever truly put away the past because it is a part of us but we have to also work on what is going on right now. Our past does influence how we handle what is happening right now though. I know I dont trust easily because of my past. I have to make a conscious decision to decide that I am dealing with the here and now and not something from a past event. I think that is something you need to work on. Deciding if you are working on issues that are related to a past event or a current event.
  18. Mamaof5

    Mamaof5 Guest

    Writing that book you are writing alone is a process of forgiveness though isn't it? You have to work through these issues while writing them down into the book. You are in the first phase of self forgiveness - staring in that mirror and facing the choices and actions that hurt others. Remorse and forgiveness are about changing your behaviors to avoid the actions and behaviors that hurt people or a person. There is a difference between guilt and remorse too - guilt signifies being angry in getting caught and what that does to your public image - remorse signifies feeling sadness and changing the behaviors. Not doing what hurt people in the first place. Also remorse is changing behaviors and saying "I'm sorry" genuinely.

    Second phase of self forgiveness (you are partially in) is listening to the inner self. Listen to what the inner you is saying - face it, take heed of it and saying sorry to yourself isn't as dumb as it sounds. Literally standing at a mirror and saying "I'm sorry for XYZ self" is rather cathartic. Your book is your path to self forgiveness.
  19. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Steely, I haven't been able to read all the response (thought processes not up & running this morning). I'd like to add that in this day & age forgiveness is highly overrated, in my humble opinion.

    We forgive others for actions when we are unwilling to forgive ourselves. To those we offer forgiveness, many times, they don't care whether they're forgiven or not; aren't aware of what they are being forgiven for, will or cannot acknowledge their part in what you see as a hurtful incident.

    Raising the tweedles with their severe abuse issues I don't see that forgiving another for that level of damage will do either of them any good. It certainly will be sought by bio mom ~ however this gives her an "out" if you will. I, personally, am not that good a person to forgive bio mom. The tweedles will do what they will do.

    Forgiving yourself is entirely a different matter. In the process of that forgiveness, please don't hurt others by your confessions of wrong doing. Your son M comes to mind. Does he need to know all the ins & outs of what when on when you were at your most vulnerable?

    What would you have done differently given the time, place & circumstances? Would you have been able to do differently given the circumstances?

    Honey, forgive yourself & move forward. It's time.
  20. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Never told anybody this before but I'm going to share it with you. I have learned to forgive others, mind you I'm like an elephant, I find it impossible to forget. But I've forgiven most of those who have done me harm, hardest ironically not being those that harmed me with evil intention, but those who hurt me from carelessness, from lack of thought or caring despite knowing their actions would cause me deep pain. Regardless, I've found a way to forgive and move on. Myself on the other hand was a long and often up-hill battle.

    So gosh knows how this even came to be, but one day I was doing my hair to get ready for yet another day of daily grind, and I noticed a ton of white hair among my jet black hair. I realized they must have been there for a long time given how long they were, how many of them of varying lengths. How did this happen I wondered, without even knowing it? This is my hair, on my head, crowning my face, on my body, on ME. Then I realized that in spite of using a mirror daily to get ready, I had stopped seeing myself in that mirror. Completely just would blank out, do what needed to be done, and get the heck away from that mirror. This lead me to wondering, when had I stopped seeing myself? Why had I stopped wanting to see myself? What was I avoiding?

    I stared in that mirror and I realized I hadn't let myself acknowledge it, but I had not wanted to see the monster in the mirror. The monster who made choices that hurt other people, that in hindsight were SO not the right choice, that set into play a series of events that affected me or people I loved. I kept staring and I remember crying and crying my head off and not letting myself look away. Take a good long look at that monster in the mirror I was thinking, stop pretending she isn't in there looking back at you. Let yourself that those emotional whippings for all those evil mistakes and choices, be with the monster you are.

    You know what happened? I realized what a crappy way to think of myself! There was NO monster in the mirror. There was a aged husk of a little girl so wronged that she was broken and crushed and dispirited and misguided and alone and abandoned and abused. There was a out of control teen, making crappy choices based on crappy events that unfolded in front of her and left her few, if any, good options. Resulting in a adult whose history lead her to believe a monster was in that mirror, one who was cruel and prone to destroying others and inflicting pain. And I realized it was all B.S! It was all in my head. All. Of. It.

    I was not a monster. I am not a monster. In that mirror was a reflection of history in every single white hair growing out among my black silky hair. A reflection of eyes that held a history of pain and regret and poor decisions sure. But also a history of surviving, of forgiving others, of trying to do better and learn better and know better. A history of fighting for better, and fighting for more for me and my children and my loved ones. A history of a adult life spent trying to be there for others and do the right thing even when I had no clue what the right thing was. A history of beating myself up in ways nobody else was beating me up. Self torture in my face and nobody I had affected with my past choices was carrying that pain, not as I was.

    What a ephiphany! Honestly it was. I wasn't a monster. I was a human being with a history of good and bad choices. Some made without thought, some made in spite of so much thought my head hurt, some made on impulse, some made on instinct (sometimes self preserving). I was not a bad person for not being perfect. I knew not one perfect person, have seen none on t.v., have read of none in books, in history. I was no different than every other person out there. A product of my upbringing, outside influences, other peoples bad and good choices, my own bad and good choices. I was not a bad person. I was not fatally flawed. I was not unforgivable. I was not unlovable or undeserving of acceptance and forgiveness and understanding. I was just as worthy of that forgiveness as those who had been forgiven BY me.

    And I told myself I was sorry. I was sorry for having been hurt by others. For hurting others. I was mostly sorry for allowing myself to live so long as a monster in a mirror in my own life. I was sorry that I could forgive those who did unspeakable things to me but could not forgive the broken person I had grown into. My tears stopped, I smiled at myself, and I noticed crazy stuff. My scraggy eyebrows that REALLY needed a good wax artist. My abundance of white hairs, how coarse and spirally and shiny they were. How on earth had I not noticed them? The little wrinkles creeping up by my eyes. The 2 scars from having moles removed. The beauty mark by my lip, my Marilyn Munroe beauty mark that I hadn't looked at for years despite my cousin coming to visit on holidays and always commenting how jealous she always was of that mark on my face. I realized I was aging and that I wasn't the young woman who made the mistakes I was carrying around with me into middle age anymore.

    I was done that day with beating myself up and kicking myself. Abusing myself was hardly a gift to myself now was it? Forgive those that abused me, but take over that abuse and inflict it on myself? That was simply madness! And it ended. I refuse to let it whisper into my head, a habit that is hard to break but one I have broken in a way I can't quit smoking. Not as addictive as the dang smokes! I was lighter, happier, and I got my eye brows waxed the same day.

    Find your mirror Steely. A real mirror, or a written mirror into your true soul and spirit of who you are. And who you are is NOT a summary of your history, of actions taken or not taken. Take a look at you. Who are you Steely? If you are seeing a monster, it is time to let that monster go. It is NOT reflected in others mirrors, only your own. Do it with your book, with words, and when you are done with the writing, let that monster go along with the final sentence. Put it to bed and don't look back. Delve back into life with a spring in your step and love for yourself. You deserve it. You are worthy. You are allowed to forgive. Others. And even more important, yourself. Find out who you are today, who you've grown into, love the person you are. Nobody is perfect but everybody deserves joy and to look in the mirror and see a true reflection, not the minds eye.

    (((hugs))) I know life is so tough for you right now and has been for some time. Please cut yourself a break. You've earned it and I hate to think of you living one more day of your life beating yourself up for what is done. Honor your sister who I know is looking down at you with love, and acceptance, forgiveness, understanding and a prayer for you to have peace and joy and light and life again. You are allowed to live Steely. Give yourself that permission and take those shaky first steps until they aren't shaky any more. Nothing can stop you but limits you put on yourself. We are all here for you and we all, I'm sure of it, would agree we want nothing more from you than to find that peace and step back into the world with bounce in your step and a ability to let yourself live the life you want.

    xo M.