Is it Better to Forgive Yourself Before Seeking Forgiveness From Others?

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In a recent post on reliability I made the point that you should seek forgiveness from those you have hurt through your lack of action. Following this, you should seek forgiveness within yourself so that you may move on to work on your reliability. After some thought I realize that I may have this backwards. Should you seek forgiveness from yourself before approaching others?

Intentional self-reflection shows a high level of maturity and awareness of your actions and their repercussions. By seeking self forgiveness first you prove to yourself that you are willing to take the steps necessary to reform before another person can weigh in on your choice. This is not an easy thing to do as the scenes play out in your head. Forgiving yourself first puts you on another level that others can sense. You have taken the time to resolve your issues and you are ready to approach others. You shine with genuine concern over the impact your past actions have had while maintaining a calmness and control of one who has been forgiven.

Another important benefit of forgiving yourself first is that it prepares you for the task ahead. Use visualization, acting, and meditation to prepare for each encounter. By going over the broken promises, missed deadlines, and discarded projects you start to gain an understanding of how other people view you. Ask yourself: “How would I feel if this was done to me? Would I be disappointed? Would I trust the person who let me down?” With that knowledge, you can tailor each request as needed. Visualize each person you have let down and ask them for forgiveness. Play through the encounter and visualize every possible way they could respond, even the possibility of their refusal.

You should remember, when asking for anything there is the possibility of not getting it. Asking someone to forgive you is no different. Self reflection and resolution prepares you with the fortitude you’ll need should forgiveness be withheld by others. There can be many reasons for this reaction: Anger at your past deeds; Pain from the memory; Pride that does not allow one to forget; or perhaps the person views it as unnecessary. In situations such as this you should drop your need for their forgiveness, assess the state of the relationship, and be prepared to terminate it if necessary.

Finally, by playing through the scenarios with each person you get a feeling for what you are willing to do to mend the relationship. Use your knowledge of each person to gauge how they will need you to prove yourself. Perhaps it will be a simple shrug of the shoulders and a quick resolution. Maybe you will be placed on probation at work and be required to deliver daily updates. You could be asked to give up something you love, or agree to decreased freedom. In each scenario ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price. Keep going through different scenarios until you find a price you are unwilling to pay. That will be your que that the relationship may be over if that price is requested. Keep in mind though, a level you are unwilling to pay for one person may be acceptable for another. For example, your boss wants you to relinquish your work from home Friday so that he can keep an eye on you. You see this as a price that is too high to pay. However, your wife asks you to give up your Friday night out with the boys so that you can spend more time with her. In each case you are asked to give up an important level of freedom, and you will only pay that price for your wife.

In the previous post on reliability I make the point that seeking forgiveness is an important part of resolving past issues in order to regain the trust of others and, while well intentioned, I had the order backwards. After the thought exercise above it is clear to me that self forgiveness as a starting point has many benefits missing from the previous process of going to others first. It is my hope that this clarification helps you through your own process of restoring your reliability and other’s trust in you.

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