You can’t go back and change the past. What is done is done.
It is now, as it now is. Tat Sat. That which is, is.
How to forgive yourself:
Face it. Trace it. Erase it. Don’t repeat that thought / word / action. But if you find yourself repeating it, forgive yourself, and continue to not repeat it. Self-awareness is the trick here, just be aware of you what you are thinking, as opposed to blindly thinking it and as a result blindly speaking or acting along the same vein.
Face it and Trace it: Name what you did without sugarcoating. Then just go through what you did, step by step, without judgement. Face the beast within you. This is the hardest part. The shame of looking in the mirror and acknowledging the beast within us can have us bent over in physical pain. To know we are the same in our own eyes as the persons we normally decry is e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y hard.
To acknowledge that we hurt another or worst-case stripped them of their dignity (the most valuable thing to take from another living being), will make us want to lower our eyes, unable to look in the mirror, or far more likely, run screaming from the mirror. Don’t run. S-t-a-y. Root your feet down and acknowledge what you did. Don’t judge yourself. Just go through the damn list. I hit them. I yelled at them. I put them down to make myself feel better. Whatever – Stay. Face It. And Trace It.
Then Erase it:
It is only when you do the above steps that your human system – highly capable of actively controlling all future thoughts, words, and actions – has a reference point as to what can be left off the agenda in the future.
If you’re able to face it and trace it but know that you will probably repeat that action, then do give this article a read: Guilt vs. Shame).
How to forgive others:
If they have clearly faced it and traced it, you erase it. They do it again, walk away don’t look back.
How to ask for forgiveness from others:
Face it and trace it. Ask for forgiveness. If they keep milking you for apologies, move along. It doesn’t mean you regress back to old behaviors. It just means the other person is not doing the same type of work, and is simply trying to make you squirm or crawl to make themselves feel better. Sticking with the new version of you even when you don’t have contact with them, might make them trust you again and reassess their desperate need to stay angry. Then they will come to you. When they do, erase the past negatives, and be happy about the reconciliation.
When someone is callous or mean (subtext: this person ranks me low or is maliciously inclined towards me), give them a chance to ask for forgiveness. It is possible they didn’t mean it or made a mistake.
Assess if their apology is sincere (if it is, it will usually be accompanied by an explanation which rings true and which isn’t edited-history to make them flawless and innocent).
If they don’t apologize but their explanation is real, then forgive away. The fact that the person understands and acknowledges their role in the matter is far more important than any apology. But be ready to walk away if they repeat the thing that bothered you, maybe on a 3-strikes rule. Ensure that the other person knows this.
Don’t be mean. A zinger will make you feel momentarily better but will mess up hours and days that the other person spent mustering up the courage to ask you for forgiveness, rendering the whole thing pointless. If you feel the need to milk someone for repeated apologies, look in the mirror – maybe the douche-bag is you.
– if you need someone to forgive you, just ask them for it. It’s as simple as that. Be sure you know why you are asking for their forgiveness. You may not want to be their friend, but you may want to just erase the sadness or negativity that was caused by your words or actions. That is good enough. If the other person expects a bigger package-deal to go with the explanations (and/or apologies), politely and sincerely explain that you are not interested in that. If the other person cannot accept this, walk away having done your duty. They need to get some perspective.
Forgiving is not the result of an apology. Forgiveness is the result of brutally honest acknowledgement of what was done. And actively not doing it again.
That’s all it is. It’s very simple indeed. Do what you always did and you will get what you always got. Funny how few people understand this. If you chop, stir, and spice in the exact same way, you will not get a different dish! You if move your body in the exact same way, you will not get a different dance! If you hit the same keys on the piano, or with the same arrangements, you will not get a different song! You will be playing the same song! You will be eating the same dish! You will feel like you are moving – but you will be moving in circles!
Acknowledging your own foolish errors of judgement or lack of timely action can be hard. Especially if you knowingly did or didn’t do something because you thought you were too good and could get away with treating someone badly or thriving on their weaknesses. Ultimately our ego is our biggest weakness and eventually becomes a heavy burden to haul around – by then, it’s often too late to fix anything.
It means you have to look in the mirror and accept that you were a demonic beast. For that other person, you were the monster. You did do and say those things. There is no escaping it.
This is really very very very hard indeed. But it can be done. And 5 seconds after the authentic, genuine, sincere, honest acceptance of your own beastliness in situation # 399332, the curse is broken. The shackle breaks off and you can hear it clank as it falls away from you.
So it’s totally worth it.
Were you a racist, a misogynist, a misanthrope? A complete asshole, jerk-off, and shitbag? Admit it to yourself. You were. And guess what. Us human beings are capable of being the ugliest life-forms on this planet. And we are also capable of being the most beautiful at times.
Just like you chose to be complacent or conceited or mean or angry in situation #419242, you can choose to not be that.
That is forgiveness. Of yourself. Not shrugging and say ‘well fuck it’, because the roots of guilt will stay and grow and manifest in all upcoming situations with other people. You cannot escape it. You can only vaporize it by doing the proper self-forgiving process.
Remember – when you admit your own mistakes to yourself and choose to not continue certain actions in the same way as before, you lose nothing but the shackles that muck up all new things.
Willful ignorance may feel like bliss – but it really isn’t, and you leave a trail of destruction behind you everywhere you go.
Willful awareness is dead simple but only when you genuinely, honestly, sincerely, authentically want different results than before – then the courage to do so comes easily.
What to do when one person isn’t allowing the forgiveness to happen:
Too many opportunities are lost because we are mired in the past.
We think we are moving freely, but we are actually dragging 20,000 kilos of rattling chains behind us – attachments, time invested, good times had (but not of late), should’ve, could’ve…didn’t.
Leave it. The only cure for this is all is an outright ‘Wegräumen’. (clear away). Don’t bother picking out something to save (that old iron pepper mill you got in that market on that day with that person). FORGET IT. Just gather EVERYTHING in the tablecloth while admitting your own idiocy in the mess that now stands, gather the ends of that tablecloth, walk to the door and outside to the trash, lift the lid, and TOSS IT. In the morning or whenever, the garbage truck will haul it away, but that is not your problem, you have already tossed it, it’s behind you and you’re not attached to it anymore.
You cannot fix things when one person isn’t playing. What is slightly messed up will only get more messed up. Or the wounds will keep reopening. The only way to fix something (even relationships) is to apologize with an honest explanation, express how you plan to not repeat old crap, and if it isn’t accepted and they keep scratching at the wound thus preventing it from healing – amiably walk away.
Then they have a chance to heal, and the toxic hooks they are holding on to like a security blanket, will have a chance to eventually fall out one by one, as nothing is feeding them anymore. And then they will stop being mad and crying. Then they will become once more the person they were meant to be instead of the pathetic loser-role they got addicted to at some point.
Once both have been free and clear from the entanglement for a while, the new persons that you both have evolved into might engage again, but as two entirely new, healthy people. Perchance you might actually love each other this time.
This stuff works.
The truth is, many of us don’t take opportunities to learn. Out of vestigial fear – or anger – we continue old patterns that have us moving around in circles. Sometimes we only learn when life kicks us in the face.
What if the other person hasn’t had that happen to them yet? Don’t expect them then to assess things the way you have. You can inform them of course, but don’t be surprised if they scoff at you. Instead, in the spirit of forgiveness, accept that they haven’t had the opportunities to learn that which you have come to understand.