There is a better way for you to deal with guilt, self- blame and regret. It’s time for you to learn all the facts about self-forgiveness


In our culture we generally favour forgiveness as a way of moving forward, to free yourself from feelings of anger, revenge or hate towards others. People often urge each other to forgive and move on, as a way of resolving deep scars or hurt and disappointment and resentment. While there is a good argument to forgive others for what they have done, what about self-forgiveness? Do we support each other the same way in seeking self-forgiveness?

A lot of research has been done on forgiveness in general, but lately the focus is on self- forgiveness. Researchers have examined the benefits and disadvantages of self-forgiveness, including its impact on mental health, psychological wellbeing and the quality of the interpersonal relationships.

“Forgiveness helps to restore your own positive identity and resolve psychological distress”

Uncharacteristically forgetting a promise to a friend or accidentally causing hurt to someone might lead you to experience some of emotions like regret, shame, sadness and disappointment with yourself. Forgiving yourself will provide you with an opportunity to resolve this psychological distress and to restore your own positive identity.

If you place a high value on friendship, integrity and honesty and it happened that your behaviour did not reflect these values it can be difficult to deal with it. One of the ways you can restore your own view of yourself is to seek self-forgiveness for making a bad decision that led to your friend feeling disappointed in you.

What can influence self-forgiveness?

Several factors can impact on your ability to forgive yourself. For example, if your friend chooses to hold a grudge it can impact on your ability to forgive yourself. In contrast, if your friend shows empathy, understanding and concern for your reasons for cancellation it could make it easier for you to forgive yourself this time and move on. Some people experience difficulties forgiving themselves regardless of circumstances and situations, others forgive themselves easily, and for some of us it depends on the actual wrongdoing and other factors related to the particular situation.

Complications of not forgiving yourself

There is some research to suggest that blaming yourself, being overly harsh and critical, and experiencing emotions such as self-blame, regret and anger can be associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorder and suicidal behaviours.

One recent study looking at self-forgiveness in Ibero-American countries found that male participants in their sample group showed greater willingness to self-forgive than women. This has been supported by previous research suggesting that women overall tend score higher on shame, guilt, empathy and personal distress.

Yes, forgive yourself – but not too quickly.

Some may argue that if you forgive yourself too quickly before taking responsibility for your actions, then the feelings of shame and guilt might be lifted too rapidly. The initial experience of difficult feelings can be helpful in making amends and trying to reach to another person. However, if a person does not feel such emotions or dismisses them too quickly it can lead to prolonged negative consequences and can impact negatively on relationships. It can be particularly dangerous, when a person who has done something wrong has issues in controlling their behaviours (explosive anger, aggressive behaviour, addictions).

– and always take responsibility for your behaviour

For example, in the heat of an argument one person hits another, without experiencing any shame or guilt. If they are too quickly forgiven they would less be likely to seek opportunity to repair the relationship, to apologise, or might even blame another person (“They made me do it”). That is why it is so important to take responsibility and not to use excuses for our damaging behaviour.

Acknowledge wrongdoings and take responsibility for the behaviour without trying to excuse it. But also choose to forgive yourself. It can lead to positive change in feelings, emotions and behaviours of the person who chooses self-forgiveness. People can stop putting themselves down, they can be more accepting of themselves and can believe that they are worthy of love or affection from others.

The benefits of self-forgiveness as well as forgiveness of others can be associated with mental health as well as physical wellbeing. It would be interesting to learn more about people who generally forgive themselves more easily, regardless of circumstances and those who find it hard to forgive in some circumstances.

Too much self- forgiveness can be damaging

Authors of another recent study argued that while self-forgiveness incorporates acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions, too much self-forgiveness can reduce the motivation to change one?s behaviour. So, how much self-forgiveness is too much? At the same time the complete inability to self-forgive has been associated with negative evaluations of a person?s life and identity, and with suicidal ideas.

The bottom line is that one should to take responsibility for one?s action and at the same time be able to forgive oneself. It might not be difficult to forgive some behaviour but there are many situations where you can learn from your mistakes and grow. This can be an opportunity to enrich your life and the lives of others.



Davis, D. E., Ho, M. Y., Griffin, B. J., Bell, C., Hook, J. N., Van Tongeren, D. R., … & Westbrook, C. J. (2015). Forgiving the self and physical and mental health correlates: A meta-analytic review. Journal of counseling psychology, 62(2), 329.

Guédez, A. G., & Mullet, E. (2014). Mapping self-forgiveness attitudes among adults living in Ibero-American countries. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 3(2), 123.


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