Forgive Yourself and Others - How to Get Rid of Guilt and Resentment

Years ago, i did something I had a hard time forgiving myself for. A friend pointed out that I didn't kill six million Jews. Another friend pointed out that if there's a name for it, you're not the first person to make that mistake. Those two comments added perspective that I was only human and therefore fallible and imperfect. I have learned to allow myself to be human.

If we were perfect, there would be no variation, no creativity. I have heard that if you're not making mistakes, you're not doing enough. I would add that if you're not making mistakes, you're certainly not challenging yourself to the point where you can grow and learn.

Humans are worthwhile just because they are human. You are worth the effort it takes to forgive yourself. Making amends helps. If it's impossible to make direct amends to whomever you wronged, you can make amends to someone like them. For example, I didn't visit my aunt in the nursing home before she died, so now I make sure I don't neglect my elderly relatives and neighbors.

The purpose of true guilt is to get us to change our behavior. Once we've changed, any remaining guilt is false guilt. Deal with false guilt by reminding yourself that it is a waste of your emotional energy. False guilt can hold you back from doing all you can to be happy and make others happy. Challenge false guilt with the facts. Remind yourself, "I'm not like that anymore."

Don't allow others to bring up long past mistakes. That is not being fair. Everyone has skeletons in their closet. If you've apologized, done what you can to right the wrong, and moved on, refuse to listen to accusations based on ancient history. Leave the room if you have to.

Forgiving others is also in your best interest. "Resentment is a substance that destroys the vessel used to store the negative emotion." "The best revenge is living well." If you are angry, use the anger as energy to improve your life.

If the anger is overwhelming, try releasing it safely. Write an angry letter and rip it up and toss it. Pound a pillow. Get in the car where no one can hear you and scream. (Stop screaming before you lose your voice.) Go for a brisk walk.

If the offense is ongoing and you want it to stop, make a plan of how to communicate with the offender only when you are calm. Plan to be clear about what you want and what you will do if your requests are ignored. Consider the feeilings of the other person as you plan. Don't bulldoze them.

Forgiveness, however, does not mean being a doormat. Sometimes the only way to stop abuse is to leave the relationship. Leaving should be sooner rather than later if the abuse is physical. Forgiving does not mean that there will be no consequences for negative actions. Forgiving means that the consequences are not delivered in anger and that the forgiver becomes free of negative emotions.

Festering anger can cause stomach ulcers, addictions, or even heart attacks and affect our relationships with others who have nothing to do with the offense. Resolve to forgive yourself and others, even if this means seeking professional counseling.

A quick end-note about apologizing: Keep it simple. "Sorry I hurt you," is better than, "sorry I called you a _____." The latter forces them to relive the insult.

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Comments 38 comments

Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 5 years ago from Philippines

I'm one who doesn't forgive in absencia, I want a face-to-face dialog with my offender. I can't just say "I forgive" to myself. This proves to be difficult, even impossible, because most offenders refuse to accept they indeed had offended me. It takes longer for me to mellow down, and while undergoing calming, I brace myself in the event that the encounter happens. And I find myself easy to accept apologies this way. I've learned more from your tips. Useful, vote up!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

i forgive whether i get an apology or not. i don't want anger smoldering inside me. i don't want my mental health to depend on someone else's choice of whether or not to apologize. if the offender is not sorry, even though i forgive them, i may not give them another chance to catch me in the same situation.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Very wise words. There is no point in beating yourself up over things in your past, if you have dealt with them.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

Dear Cathylynn,

As someone who has consistently read and enjoyed everything you have written, I have found that you are an extremely sensitive and caring person. Just the feeling you show in your writing highlights those qualities. Part of being sensitive and caring is guilt. It always seems to naturally come with those personality traits. It is because you care that you feel guilt, even though it is unwarranted.

You are right. Let go of it whenever you can. It is hard sometimes, but like you said, "I have learned to allow myself to be human." Take it from an old, always guilt-ridden grandma; guilt sucks.

I also learned that if you take off "The Wonder Woman Costume" and stop trying to be perfect for everyone, life gets alot easier--and happier! It worked for me--just figured the costume doesn't fit so well the older I get. Still try to squeeze into it sometimes, but then I look in the mirror and it just doesn't suit me anymore...


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

christopher - being our age makes this kind of info mostly common sense. we didn't get through life without making a few mistakes and then learning how to deal with them gracefully and wisely. i'm hoping some youngsters will read and save themselves from unnecessary suffering.

jillian - thanks for reading and the kind, funny, and insightful comment.


ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago

Hi Cathylynn. I like your new avatar. This is my favorite hub today! Messing up is part of all this, and I think you made an excellent point that if you're one who is not making any mistakes, you're probably not challenging yourself to the point where you can grown and learn. If I let every mistake I ever made get me down for long, I'd be 6 feet underground. No, actually, I'd be in a vase. I want to be cremated, but you get the idea. Thanks for a wonderful hub!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

hi, ahs,

the avatar is the only picture i have been able to download onto my computer. i wish i could rotate it. it shows two of my passions, my cat smoke and part of my music box collection.

glad you liked the hub. glad you have perspective on your mistakes. thanks for adding your insight to the conversation.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Guilt is bought, sold and traded on the stock market. How is it that 20 million Russians died in world war two but six million EuroJews lives are more valuable?

I reject any guilt for any of that. I didn't do anything to any of those people. Later, Stalin starved to death more than ten million Ukranians - they don't have their own museum - because they don't have the money to sell us all any guilt.

Slavery - ditto, same type of deal, and I didn't do it.

Ammends are the way to handle such things. Making amends should't hurt OTHERS though. I've been to ten trillion A.A. meetings, and they are good, very good things for a lot of people. The only happy people at those meetings are the ones who've made their ammends.

If you ever get the notion that mainstream media is forever trying to make YOU feel guilty for SOMETHING or ANYTHING - you're right, and they are.

Guilt should only be for the guilty. Great hub!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

wts,

thank you for the thought-provoking comment. yes, genocide is a large part of the human experience. seems there's been a genocide about every five years during my lifetime. genocide stretches at least back to old testament times. i didn't mean to imply that hitler's genocide was the worst. the friend that made that comment to me happenned to be jewish.

i don't feel guilty about genocides either, because i'm the type of person who would hide persecuted folks in my attic. i'm proud the US intervened in kosovo and glad there's an international criminal court to deal with genocide and systematic rape. i'm not sure how the US decides when and when not to intervene. i feel sad, for example, about darfur. i don't feel guilty about it, though, because i realize i don't have much control over these large decisions.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Sorry to say that I'm positive that the U.S. only intervenes when they think that corporations can make money.

Nobody intervened in Africa - guess those people didn't have money, or maybe they weren't white enough? I'm POSITIVE that those lives are of the same value as mine, any Jews, or anyone in Kosovo's life. Pity we're a racist nation.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Sorry - I obviously have a very hard time forgiving the folks that stir the drink. It's much easier to forgive those who have absolutely nothing - unless you're rich, then you typically have laws passed to ensure that those persons go to jail for their sins.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

wts,

i, too, am positive that all human lives are equal.

i think that 12-step groups are wonderful resources.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

wts,

you might be interested in the hub "class warfare - the american way" by thebrucebeat.


dashingscorpio profile image

dashingscorpio 5 years ago

Excellent advice! I might add that one should not be too surprised if whomever was hurt does not forgive us. Life is a personal journey. Each of us decides what we want to do with our time. One reason some people are reluctant to "forgive" is because they believe it's the same as giving a person a "free pass". Far from it!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

exactly, dashingscorpio,

forgiving is something that you do more for yourself than for the person who wronged you. many folks don't understand that and choose to carry a burden of resentment through life. i'd say 2 of 3 times i've apologized for an unkind word, the person didn't accept it.

thanks for reading and commenting


Captainausume profile image

Captainausume 5 years ago from New Jersey

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult feats to overcome. It's even worse when you don't receive the apology you crave.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

captain - yes, difficult at times, but worth the effort.


ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 5 years ago from Lagos

I put it to you that you re a scholar. You re a great writer. You ve inspired me


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

thank you so much, ubanichijioke. i do love to learn. i guess we have that in common.


Mr. Smith profile image

Mr. Smith 5 years ago from California

There is never enough said about the benefits of forgiveness. Asking for it and giving it go hand-in-hand. Well written.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

mr.smith,

yes, do unto others applies to forgiveness, too. you make a good point.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Having spent time lots of time in talk therapy, its time that people realize that the person condemning themselves is now... them! Put aside the past and any former bosses, parents, etc. and live your life on your standards. Move forward and don't look back. Great hub - rated up!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

steph,

couldn't have said it better myself. thanks for the comment and the vote.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

@cathylynn...Very helpful advice...Nice job!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

thank you, barb.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

What a nice honest human friendly hub!

Great advice in my view, and a subject that needs airing.

You did it well here, congratulations.


Jewels profile image

Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

I'm with you there Earnest and know this emotive cesspit well! It's great to understand anger from the perspective of passion and it's creative force instead of imploding it in on oneself and feeling guilty for feeling those feelings. A work in progress of course but clarity is at least getting the arrow pointing in the right direction.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

earnest and jewels,

thanks for the positive comments.


baygirl33 profile image

baygirl33 5 years ago from Hamilton On.

Hi Cathylynn,I need something like this every so often to remind myself. I've had a confusing summer and find so many minute details large and small to blame myself for what I should have done and what I could have done and I have no way of repairing that situation.

I know what I'm supposed to do but doing it is the thing.

Thanks for the reminders!

Voted you up and useful.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

baygirl,

it is so normal to blame ourselves and question ourselves when we lose someone. that doesn't mean we deserve it! i'm sure you did your best. that's all anyone can do. expecting more of ourselves just isn't fair. be good to yourself. your husband would want you to.


baygirl33 profile image

baygirl33 5 years ago from Hamilton On.

Thanks Cathylynn.

Take care!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

Simply a marvelous Hub. I agree with every word you wrote here. We must forgive, even ourselves. Great advice. Thank you.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US Author

thanks, james,

i've lived a full life and picked up a few things along the way. glad to be of use.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI

I can forgive pretty easily, but can never seem to get rid of guilt, it's like an ongoing emotion that saps all my energey. Your hub is very interesting and contains good points on how to rid yourself of resentment. Good job!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US Author

hi, cbr,

apply those awesome forgiveness skills toward yourself to help with the guilt.


james555 profile image

james555 3 years ago from Hudson Falls New York USA

bazaar


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 3 years ago from northeastern US Author

cute, james.


james555 profile image

james555 3 years ago from Hudson Falls New York USA

They say I'm a very clever lad from Liverpool, Mate. A very bazaar but very clever lad! Peace and Love (Still)

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