All buts are cracked.

In the search for identity, self-forgiveness plays a pivotal role in reforming perspective, rendering and processing judgment and settling into tenets based on experience. There is a point, however, where self-forgiveness becomes a method to engage in bad behavior.

Build It

The basic components of self-forgiveness are

  • Acknowledge wrongdoing.
  • Have and admit remorse.
  • Show desire and willingness to desist such behavior.
  • Act on the desire.
  • Do penance.
  • Accept forgiveness.
  • Forget the hurt, while remembering the lesson.

In terms of self-forgiveness, the penance is often the difficult part. How do you determine what acts are sufficient to assuage self-inflicted pain? Some examples of self-inflicted pain which we recognize, cease and desist are:

  • Self-deprecation
  • Self-critique
  • Self-doubt

The only true penance for these are engaging in positive behaviors which edify and strengthen character. Penance is not always the most difficult part.

Not So Easy!

While many never truly banish these behaviors, bringing them to a walk-on role instead of a lead can serve as penance, but it does not often equate to self-forgiveness. Judgment is a powerful motivator. We use it everyday to apply, avoid or succumb to peer pressure. When we self-judge, we are often far more intolerant than we are of persons outside our own skin.

Double Standard

No one will ever consider a double standard fair. Why, then, do we apply them everyday to ourselves? The acceptance of our basic humanness is the core to identity.

Before we are honest or compassionate or tolerant, we are human. We have animal instincts and are prone to mistakes until we gather knowledge and experience to increase our proficiency. This principle applies equally to manual tasks as it does to emotional ones.

Perfection Butterfly

Self-forgiveness needs to be the standard.

Perfection is not expected nor should it be. Accepting fallibility is not a sign of weakness, but is a workable application of self-realization. We validate our peers by accepting their imperfections as part of their individual identities because we realize they are human.

Forgiving oneself for (real, perceived or self-perceived) failure is necessary to learn from mistakes without staying so focused on them to halt forward progress.


No buts.

No buts.

Excuses are the way to appear to forgive without rectifying the behavior. When we acknowledge wrongdoing and admit the need for change, but then fail to apply such change, we fail at self-forgiveness and begin enabling our own bad behavior.

Habitual lying is an example because it is not a mistake, but intentional. It begins with a simple, often compassionate, lie. When the lie is revealed, platitudes are made to excuse the lie.

I would have told you the truth, but it would have hurt your feelings.”

Now, different feelings are hurt than the ones which would have been bruised with the truth. The next time the lie surfaces, another lie is needed to cover the first. This lie is told to someone else. When the cover-up lie is exposed, a different platitude surfaces.

I would have told you the truth, but I had to tell you that to protect Quaint’s feelings.”

Both admit wrongdoing, but neither stops the lying. Both “but”s are cracked. They are merely an excuse to continue to behave badly.

Instead of judging the behavior as bad and following through with the resolution to cease and desist, the conscious decision excuses the bad behavior as necessary and therefore acceptable. This is not self-forgiveness.

Denial is affirmation.

Defined by bad behavior

While there are very few people who want to be identified by their bad behavior, in denying the persistence of bad behavior we become identified by it. This is not about others’ reactions. Instead, this is about self-realizing the abhorrent behavior.  We characterize ourselves by failure.

Failing to follow through the final steps of self-forgiveness, namely desisting, accepting forgiveness and learning/forgetting, we realize continued bad behavior as our self-fulfilling identity.

Breaking the Cycle

Continued self-realization of negativity is a form of abuse. Continued application of the double standard is equally abusive. Self-doubt is the example.

When Quaint is crippled from action because self-doubt creates the perception failure is the only outcome, you step up and reinforce Quaint’s confidence. You point out past successes or experiences which are applicable to the task at hand.

Apply the same standard to yourself, instead of allowing self-doubt to keep you from seeking Quaint’s encouragement or assistance. In order to receive, you must ask.

Never ask, always no

“No” is not forever.

When you ask for help and receive no as an answer, it is not where your quest should end. No often has a string of excuses (or legitimate prohibitions) attached to it. Rather than dwell on the current unavailability, seek assistance elsewhere.

No does not mean your request is unworthy, without merit or unreasonable. It merely means the person from whom you are seeking assistance is not in a position to help you. Lack of endorsement does not define you. You do.

Tomorrow, we will explore the “learning the lesson” principle and the final stages of self-forgiveness.

Besides abuse, can you think of another example of bad behavior which is self-enabling? How is saying “no” to certain requests possible without sacrificing your compassion? 

Talk Tuesday

Talk Tuesday

Tolerance and respect will be the topic of our Talk Tuesday. (The topic will be posted at 1900 EDT [GMT-5] and the discussion will begin at 2000. If you cannot stay until the discussion begins, please leave a comment or question for the group to discuss.)

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. I am pretty hard on myself, but it’s always little stupid things. If anything major happens, I beat myself up for only a bit and then I have to forgive myself or I can’t pick myself up and move on.

    • That is a common occurrence, Lorre. It seems we are less forgiving of the things which are D’oh! moments than we are the monumental train wrecks which are completely understandable as mistakes. When we feel like we should have known better, it is harder to say…”It’s okay. I will just not do that again.” Deep down, we know, there will be another D’Oh! moment.

  2. It’s difficult to forgive myself for over-indulging. I can’t keep my head out of the fridge and then I beat myself up about it. I cannot unplug. Every day. Ugh.
    Awesome post for self-examination. 🙂
    Tess recently posted..Beijing: Ming Tombs, Day 4, Part 2My Profile

    • As long as the beating up is stocking the fridge with healthy yummies or walking, you are in the clear. 🙂

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