Self-Forgiveness: The First Step to Healing

self-forgivenessForgiving ourselves is easier if we take responsibility and make peace with our inner self.[1] In fact, researchers state that giving our inner selves a “moral OK” is actually a significant action toward the healing process.1 A study by Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has investigated self-forgiveness.1

Carpenter believes that taking responsibility for an action and then making amends with oneself allows for self-restoration.1 Experts have found his beliefs to be significant as previous studies have shown that the inability to self-forgive can be a factor in depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system.1

“One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings,” said Carpenter. “They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go.”1

Carpenter’s research article was based on two studies.1 The first study had 269 participants recall diverse, real-world offenses they committed, ranging from romantic betrayals to physical injury to gossip.1 The second study asked 208 participants about a hypothetical wrong.1

In the first study, participants were asked how much they have forgiven themselves for an actual offense; how much they tried efforts, such as apology, asking forgiveness, and restitution; how much they felt the other person had forgiven them; and how much they saw self-forgiveness as morally appropriate.1 The more the participants made amends, the more they found self-forgiveness to be morally appropriate.1 Furthermore, receiving forgiveness helped the participants feel that it was alright to let go.1 However, a limitation of the study was that the offenses varied for each person.1

In the second study, the researchers used a standard hypothetical offense: failing to take the blame for the action that caused a friend’s firing.1 The study revealed similar results to the first; however, receiving forgiveness from someone else had little effect on whether the person actually forgave themselves.1 This research also showed that the guiltier a person felt and the more serious the wrong, the less likely they were able to self-forgive.1

“Self-forgiveness may be morally ambiguous territory,” the researchers wrote. “And individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue to pay for their wrongs. But by making amends, they may be able to tip the scales of justice.”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Self-Forgiving Important First Step to Healing. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 14, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/14/self-forgiving-important-first-step-to-healing/69819.html

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