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
Reblogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog is expressly forbidden.
Copyright and Privacy Policy available in The Office.
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Interesting. Do you think there are no cases where your two examples of “but” are valid?

    • While there are often arguments made for the compassionate lie, I have found very few plausible ones which apply to able-minded adults. I do believe there are some (as in very few) compassionate lies which are appropriate for children and ill adults who cannot truly cope with the enormity of some truth. However, in the example, I do not.

      For me, compassion is truest when the bruising truth is tempered (not foregone). As for the second “but”, the better part of valor is not to be discussing a hurtful truth with a third party. It is either idle or malicious gossip. When brought up by the third party, I prefer to explain it is none of my business, and I shall not engage in the discussion. Depending on the hurtfulness of the truth, I often point out it is none of the third party’s business as well.

      It is harsh for most, but it works well for me.

  2. I fully believe in whole truths! Who is to decide which part or parcel of a truth you’re to hear? It turns the ‘bearer of information’ into a liar, and diminishes their trustworthiness; if they were to lie about this, what else have they been lying about all along?

    A great post, Red! I’m sure you’ll get some more hate mail out of it, you lucky duck, you!

  3. I’d say no to penance. That’s self-flagellation. The past exists only in the mind. It’s gone and so are the deeds of the past. Acknowledge that you may have not been true to your self and let it go and connect with your true self now.

    Meeting certain requests that would compromise your true self can only be met with no.


  4. Hey I thought that this was a naughty posting with that title and then realised that there was only one ‘t’ in Buts, yes I know, mind in the gutter but I will be back on the morrow / later today to add a better response, and with less cheek if you will pardon the pun? 🙂

    Have a lovely rest of evening Red 🙂
    It is definitely time for some coffee…

    Androgoth XXx

    • ROFL! Aye, I think you may well need a cuppa. It has been a line I have used since my first set of teenagers. It is just naughty enough to be remembered 😉 I shall see you when you return. And you may as well bring me one as well! Red.

  5. Adding that but changes everything. When teaching a class (to teens) on forgiveness and conflict resolution I teach not to use but statements. Saying, “I am sorry, but…” is just a cover for not being sorry, or blaming. It is not healthy. Accept responsibility and move on, no excuses.

    As far as self forgiveness, I think we are often harder on ourselves than we need to be. I mean call it what it is, but let’s not wallow in that self condemnation. Forgive, learn, ask for forgiveness or whatever it takes, but leaving these things unresolved will lead to further harm. Really great post-

    • Thank you, Derek. I have used the title for over a decade, as it stuck with the tweens/teens. The moving on is the tough part, so I am dedicating a whole post to it. Could not do it justice here and not have something which was an ebook size 😉 Good to see you tonight. Red.

  6. bear

     /  February 6, 2012

    As Red knows, I’m very hard on myself, but I am learning ways to forgive myself. I normally do not make a lot of mistakes because the ones I made as a young person, I have not made again.

    But I do make mistakes. And I do not make excuses for my mistakes. I own them. I see the blame game everyday, and most of the time the excuse is “I didn’t know” even knowing full well the person in question has been caught doing the same thing over and over.

    I only wish most would get a grip on what they are doing. I have learned by example: what not to do. Good post, Red!

    • Thank you, Bear. And you are harder on yourself than need be. It is true of many, though. When forgiveness is afforded, you should accept it with grace and move on to something better. But that, Bear, is the subject of another post. Red.

  7. I’m afraid I find it hard to forgive myself ANY mistakes.

    I am and always will be trying for the perfect 10 with zero mistakes.

    As a child my father’s beatings were predicated on the basis that there was no such thing as an ‘Accident’ or a ‘Mistake’ and all had to be punished vigorously.

    Since then I have learned that you may make no mistakes, but still be horribly punished…

    Love and hugs!


    • The motivation behind all abuse is fear. With a world full of unintended consequences and there are “punishments” for non-mistakes, adopting self-forgiveness is all the more important. When you are carrying around a lot of past, you miss some important, healing steps in the present. Give your conscience a little room to breathe and trust it to help you remember the lessons. {HUGZ} Red.

  8. This subject means more to me than you could ever realize. Forgiving myself has been a lot more difficult than forgiving others. I see that this ties into your post in which you asked how we describe ourselves.. there lies part of the reason I have had difficulties with forgiving myself.

    • Your self-description is one which should encourage self-forgiveness. You do everything in your power to keep from those things which require forgiveness. Accepting the occasional missed mark is not a weakness. In learning the lesson comes the strength. Not going to tell you it is easy or pain-free, but remember, scar tissue is strong. Forgiveness is the salve to help the hurt heal. {HUGZ} Red.

  9. Forgiveness is a lifelong lesson. Many people never learn it. Some must learn it over and over again, particularly with regard to self-forgiveness. I agree that it is important to acknowledge wrong doing, but I think that often the things that are hardest to forgive involve no real wrong. They are often more in the realm of regret – what you didn’t do, what you didn’t reach for, things you wish you could have given your kids but couldn’t for whatever reason.

    I like “forget the hurt while remembering the lesson.”

    • Regret is a form of not self-forgiving. It is something we may (depending on how burnt this topic gets) cover before I wrap up this series. Depending on how the discussion goes tonight, it may come sooner. I had originally wanted to tie regret to ambition, but considering the tide of the comments and emails, it may need to be tied to forgiveness first and revisited alongside ambition. Glad you found a piece to take away, Jayna. Red.

  10. Just read a post by Lisa Tyrquist (sp?)”How big is your but” that is similar to yours. She is talking about ‘yeah but’ or ‘ but I’. Change is the only penance needed. It’s amazing how ofte the biggest lies we tell are to ourselves.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.