Self-Forgiveness: A Step Closer to Healing

Healing our relationships, and ourselves, through acts of self-care, compassion, and grace.

Sinning can lead to moral distress. To have remorse and regret sinning is an indication of a pure heart. To grieve engaging in a bad deed can start a journey toward spiritual cleansing, but it can also take a toll on emotions, the psyche, and the soul. Repentance can lead not only to salvation, but also to healing.

The conditions of repentance are to immediately stop sinning, to regret committing the sin, and to make the sincere intention to never go back to that sin. At times, changing one’s environment is conducive or even crucial for the journey. A final condition of repentance has to do with asking forgiveness from, and making amends with, those we hurt.

The journey toward healing and recovery is not much different. In order for individuals to heal, they need to first gain the insight that something is not working, stop the unhealthy behavior (bearing in mind that doing the exact thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity), and then commit to a more constructive life viewpoint (one that is free of self-loathing and toxic relations). Changing the environment is sometimes essential for healing to happen (like leaving a violent or abusive relationship).

When the trauma takes place in a relational context, healing usually also needs to happen relationally. We can do this by asking forgiveness from, and making amends with, those who were hurt by our words or actions, and most importantly by working toward self-forgiveness—not through lip service, but rather by practicing recovery in action through acts of self-care, compassion, and grace.

When we heal, we start to extend our light and beauty to others. When we fill our emotional tanks, we become better able to care for others, starting with our loved ones. Repentance can indeed be our pathway toward healing from sins, and it can lead to moral salvation and spiritual elevation. Self-forgiveness can be a major step toward healing from trauma.

Dr Reda is a practicing psychiatrist, Providence Healthcare System, Portland, Oregon. He is the author of The Wounded Healer: The Pain and Joy of Caregiving, due out March 15.