In our journey to inner peace and healing, both guilt and forgiveness of self and others have a profound effect on this process. Guilt is defined as a feeling of culpability especially for imagined offences or from a sense of inadequacy; a self-reproach; and forgiveness as the act of forgiving or the ceasing of feeling resentment against an offender. Guilt and lack of forgiveness of self and others, burdens many people with the heavy weight of inappropriate shame and the destruction of deep-seated resentments. In recent years, much has been written about the destructiveness of repressed emotions and particularly anger and resentment in contributing to life-threatening illnesses.
The belief that feeling emotion means we are weak is a dreadful legacy to burden people with. Teaching people that strength means not feeling or denying our feelings is tantamount to creating illness. Beliefs such as 'big boys don't cry' and 'good girls don't get angry' has resulted in men and women who are unable to get in touch with what they actually feel. Depression is thought to be caused by anger turned inward and is only one of the symptoms of the need to protect ourselves from the scorn associated with expressing feelings. Many other illnesses and particularly the addictions are theorised to be expressions of a deep level of emotional pain.
Why won't we forgive? I believe it starts from our unwillingness to forgive ourselves. We believe that we are undeserving of love, respect, acceptance, appreciation, and the right to live a life where we walk in peace, joy, harmony, and abundance. Somewhere along the line, we started to believe that all the rules and regulations of the society in which we live defined who we were supposed to be. We stopped trusting and believing in our own inherent worth and came to believe that we were 'not good enough.' Messages such as 'you failed' or 'you should' became a litany for us to abuse ourselves with guilt. I call it abuse because it is just as painful when we do it to ourselves as when others do it to us. We became judge and jury and found ourselves guilty of our perceived offences. When the primary caregivers such as parents, teachers, and other societal influences are unable to love themselves unconditionally, this 'learned attitude' is passed on to the next generation as shame in an attempt to control behaviour.
Self-forgiveness is that regular maintenance that keeps us on the road. The self-forgiving person is not as many believe, or at least fear - a selfish person. It is the person who remains stuck in self-doubt and self-condemnation who will lead the more selfish, less productive life..
Practice loving yourself. We hear lots about loving our neighbor but forget that most of the great religious leaders of the world also urge us to love ourselves. Evaluate how you treat yourself in body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Pure happiness is achieved because when you forgive a person who has done you harm, you detoxify yourself of all negative energy, free your mind, and purify your soul and body. Perhaps that's why Martin Luther said: "Forgiveness is pure happiness."
"How often do you forgive one person? Up to seven times?" Jesus Christ was asked by his disciple Peter. Jesus replied: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Jesus even asked God to forgive those who had crucified him: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." In The Lord's Prayer, Christians pray: "And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."
Forgiveness has great power. It is a glorious and selfless act that could radically transform the lives of both the forgiver and the forgiven - for the better.