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The art of self-forgiveness
// October 10, 2014 // Rick Hanson PhD
<http://www.wildmind.org/author/rick-hanson-phd>
self-forgivenessEveryone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother
Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.
Its important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and
learn from them so they dont happen again. But most people keep beating
themselves up way past the point of usefulness: theyre unfairly
self-critical.
Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me
might set the alarm clock for 6 am to get up and exercise . . . and then
when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: Who set the darn
clock? More broadly, there is a kind of inner critic and inner
protector inside each of us. For most people, that inner critic is
continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find
fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over
and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesnt
credit you for your efforts to make amends.
Check out Meditations for Happiness
<http://shop.wildmind.org/product.php?productid=459&cat=&page=1> (3
CDs), by Rick Hanson
Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to
put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many
good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting
back on the high road even if youve gone down the low one, and
frankly to tell that inner critic to Shut Up.
With the support of your inner protector, you can see your faults

clearly with fearing that will drag you into a pit of feeling awful,
clean up whatever mess youve made as best you can, and move on. The
only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame, or remorse is learning not
punishment! so that you dont mess up in that way again. Anything past
the point of learning is just needless suffering. Plus excessive guilt,
etc., actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping
make this world a better place, by undermining your energy, mood,
confidence, and sense of worth.
Seeing faults clearly, taking responsibility for them with remorse and
making amends, and then coming to peace about them: this is what I mean
by forgiving yourself.
*/How?/*
Start by picking something relatively small that youre still being hard
on yourself about, and then try one or more of the methods below. Ive
spelled them out in detail since thats often useful, but you could do
the gist of these methods in a few minutes or less.
Then if you like, work up to more significant issues.
Here we go:
* Start by getting in touch, as best you can, with the feeling of
being cared about by some being: a friend or mate, spiritual being,
pet, or person from your childhood. Open to the sense that aspects
of this being, including the caring for you, have been taken into
your own mind as parts of your inner protector.
* Staying with feeling cared about, list some of your many good
qualities. You could ask the protector what it knows about you.
These are facts, not flattery, and you dont need a halo to have
good qualities like patience, determination, fairness, or kindness.
* If you yelled at a child, lied at work, partied too hard, let a
friend down, cheated on a partner, or were secretly glad about
someones downfall whateverit was acknowledge the facts: what
happened, what was in your mind at the time, the relevant context
and history, and the results for yourself and others. Notice any
facts that are hard to face like the look in a childs eyes when
you yelled at her and be especially open to them; theyre the ones
that are keeping you stuck. It is always the truth that sets us free.
* Sort what happened into three piles: moral faults, unskillfulness,
and everything else. Moral faults deserve proportionateguilt,
remorse, or shame, but unskillfulness calls for correction, no more.
(This point is very important.) You could ask others what they think
about this sorting (and about other points below) include those
you may have wronged but you alone get to decide whats right. For
example, if you gossiped about someone and embellished a mistake he
made, you might decide that the lie in your exaggeration is a moral
fault deserving a wince of remorse, but that casual gossip (which
most of us do, at one time or another) is simply unskillful and
should be corrected (i.e., never done again) without self-flagellation.
* In an honest way, take responsibility for your moral fault(s) and
unskillfulness. Say in your mind or out loud (or write): I am
responsible for ______ , _______ , and _______ . Let yourself feel
it. Then add to yourself: But I am NOT responsible for ______ ,
_______ , and _______ . For example, you are not responsible for the
misinterpretations or over-reactions of others. Let the relief of
what you are NOT responsible for sink in.
* Acknowledge what you have already done to learn from this

experience, and to repair things and make amends. Let this sink in.
Appreciate yourself. Next, decide what if anything remains to be
done inside your own heart or out there in the world and then do
it. Let it sink in that youre doing it, and appreciate yourself for
this, too.
* Now check in with your inner protector: is there anything else you
should face or do? Listen to that still quiet voice of conscience,
so different from the pounding scorn of the critic. If you truly
know that something remains, then take care of it. But otherwise,
know in your heart that what needed learning has been learned, and
that what needed doing has been done.
* And now actively forgive yourself. Say in your mind, out loud, in
writing, or perhaps to others statements like: I forgive myself for
______ , _______ , and _______ . I have taken responsibility and
done what I could to make things better. You could also ask the
inner protector to forgive you, or others out in the world,
including maybe the person you wronged.
* You may need to go through one or more the steps above again and
again to truly forgive yourself, and thats alright. Allow the
experience of being forgiven to take some time to sink in. Help it
sink in by opening up to it in your body and heart, and by
reflecting on how it will help others for you to stop beating
yourself up.
May you be at peace.
Also see...
Buddhist tradition thrives in Austin
<http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/buddhist-tradition-thrives-in-austin>
The 6 Elements CD
<http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-6-elements-cd>
Living in a brainwashed culture of urgency
<http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/living-in-a-brainwashed-culture-of-urgency>
Attention: The most basic form of love
<http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/attention-the-most-basic-form-of-love
>
Tags: brain
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/brain>, Buddha s Brain
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/buddhas-brain>, Buddhism
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/buddhism>, Contemplative Practice
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/contemplative-practice>, happiness
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/happiness>, love
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/love>, Mind Brain
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/mind-brain>, mindfulness

<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/mindfulness>, neuroplasticity
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/neuroplasticity>, neuroscience
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/neuroscience>, Positive Psychology
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/positive-psychology>, relationships
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/relationships>, Rick Hanson
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/rick-hanson>, wisdom
<http://www.wildmind.org/tag/wisdom>,
avatar
Rick Hanson PhD
October 10, 2014 in on practice
<http://www.wildmind.org/category/blogs/on-practice>
*Rick Hanson, Ph.D.* <http://www.rickhanson.net/>*,* is a psychologist,
Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
<http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/author/rick_hanson/>, and New York
Times best-selling author. His books include /Hardwiring Happiness/
<http://amzn.to/15yp4xp>, /Buddhas Brain/ <http://amzn.to/pvDwcZ>,
/Just One Thing/ <http://amzn.to/nAWMrk>, and /Mother Nurture/
<http://amzn.to/ssXOqk>, and are available in 26 languages. He edits the
Wise Brain Bulletin <http://www.wisebrain.org/tools/wise-brain-bulletin>
and has numerous audio programs <http://bit.ly/izjdW4>. A /summa cum
laude/ graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for
Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom
<http://www.wisebrain.org/wellspring.html>, hes been an invited speaker
at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and
taught in meditation centers worldwide. His work has been featured on
the BBC, CBS, and NPR, and he offers the free Just One Thing
<http://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing> newsletter with over
100,000 subscribers, plus the online Foundations of Well-Being
<http://www.rickhanson.net/teaching/foundations-program/> program in
positive neuroplasticity that anyone with financial need can do for free.
Read more articles by Rick Hanson PhD
<http://www.wildmind.org/author/rick-hanson-phd>
Show Comments <javascript:;>
//19 Comments. Leave new <#respond>
avatar
Ann Becker-Schutte
July 25, 2011 12:04 am <#comment-124998>
Lovely! What a compassionate, caring piece. Thanks for the practical
exercise.
Reply
<http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-art-of-self-forgiveness?replytoco
m=124998#respond>
avatar
Sarah
November 30, 2011 12:40 pm <#comment-144495>

THANK YOU! The gentle, honest, insightful approach has helped to soften
the rough, jagged and hurting edges of my soul. This has been immensely
helpful.
Reply
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m=144495#respond>
avatar
Forgiveness Lesson IV: Self-Forgiveness | Spiritual Competency Resource
Center
December 5, 2011 8:59 pm <#comment-145464>
[] The authors suggest that the process of self-forgiveness may differ
depending on the whether the victim of the behavior is another or
oneself. However in an interesting counterpoint, psychologist and author
of Buddhas Brain, Rick Hanson, describes self-forgiveness in terms of
the relationship between different subpersonalities within each of us.
Perhaps with this view of intrapersonal dynamics in mind, the
differences might not seem so great. To read Hansons article, which
includes a useful self-forgiveness exercise, go to
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-art-of-self-forgiveness []
Reply
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m=145464#respond>
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The best of Wildmind, 2011 | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
December 31, 2011 12:13 pm <#comment-151346>
[] Click to read more []
Reply
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m=151346#respond>
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Wonder Rapt , Self Forgiveness
January 8, 2012 12:43 am <#comment-153080>
[] For more on this topic, check out this article: The Art of
Self-Forgiveness Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on
Facebook share via Reddit Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on
this post Tell a friend Click here to cancel reply. []
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Thoughts Notebook | Pearltrees
March 11, 2012 3:36 am <#comment-165120>
[] The art of self-forgiveness | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
StumbleUpon Here we go: []
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m=165120#respond>
avatar
Choosing to Forgive: Therapeutic Stages of Forgiveness | Mindfulness Muse
May 11, 2012 6:34 pm <#comment-177800>
[] We have all experienced events in our lives when we have held onto
painful emotions such anger, sadness, guilt, and shame. Sometimes
painful emotions are directly outwardly towards others, accompanied by
experiences such as blame, resentment, doubt, or anger. These are times
when we feel that we have been wronged by another and are faced with the
choice of how to respond to the real or perceived transgression(s), what
personal responsibility we are willing to take for it having occurred,
and whether or not to forgive. Other times we may experience ourselves
as the transgressor, filled with guilt, shame, self-doubts, or sadness.
In these times, we also must make the choice of how to respond to the
situation not only by asking for forgiveness but ultimately through
engaging in the soul-searching process that leads to authentic
self-forgiveness. []
Reply
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avatar
ten steps to self-forgiveness Third Hand Works
August 16, 2012 6:27 pm <#comment-220636>
[] the process outlined below is primarily the work of Rick Hanson, it
also includes what Ive learned about conditions of satisfaction from
Molly Gordon and []
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m=220636#respond>
avatar
Jason
September 6, 2012 1:08 am <#comment-225052>
This really helps. Thank you.
Reply
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m=225052#respond>
avatar
Darrell
September 23, 2012 9:36 pm <#comment-229276>
Amazing article, very insightful. I shared it on my page for good karma
http://www.facebook.com/good.karma.daily
:)
Reply
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m=229276#respond>

avatar
Lucka 9 Inspirationskalendern - Sanne Aronsson - Entreprenr24
December 9, 2012 11:49 am <#comment-299520>
[] The art of self-forgiveness Everyone messes up. Me, you, the
neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha,
everybody Ls vidare hr []
Reply
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m=299520#respond>
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Stacey
January 3, 2013 4:55 pm <#comment-326079>
Love this! Print and use
Reply
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m=326079#respond>
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Jessie
January 26, 2013 9:37 pm <#comment-351063>
Thank you very much! This article is very helpful for me :)
Reply
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m=351063#respond>
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You Should Have Protected Me | Infinite Sadness... or hope?
October 12, 2013 2:26 am <#comment-519183>
[] The art of self-forgiveness (wildmind.org) []
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m=519183#respond>
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Jennifer Landsberger
February 25, 2015 12:02 pm <#comment-771791>
Im not sure I can possibly get my inner critic to shut-up. But
thoughtful, wonderful piece.
Im worried about focusing on the positive and then committing the sin
of pride, though. Any advice?
Reply
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m=771791#respond>
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Bodhipaksa
February 25, 2015 5:02 pm <#comment-771794>
Id argue that the point is not so much to get the inner critic to shut

up, but to stop taking it so seriously and to ignore it when its views
arent needed. Then you can learn to listen to it when its appropriate
and we all need an inner critic to keep us on our toes.
Reply
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Ollie
February 26, 2015 11:37 am <#comment-771817>
Thank you for this. It honestly was exactly what I needed. I had somehow
lost touch of the light worker I was , but now Im back.
Reply
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Dont be ashamed to own what is you or yours. | radical monk
June 28, 2015 11:10 pm <#comment-775218>
[] helpful links to check out: The Art of Self-Forgiveness (make a link
as process to put down shame)
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-art-of-self-forgiveness
From Tiny Buddha:
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/overcoming-shame-forgive-let-go/ Overcoming
Shame: I []
Reply
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m=775218#respond>
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Brie
October 11, 2015 1:29 pm <#comment-782644>
This article made me tear up a bit. It is really good. It helped me a
lot. I feel almost a burden has been lifted. Thank you.
Reply
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m=782644#respond>

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