Forgive Yourself – No One Else Can Do it For You

“The practice of forgiveness is very much like the practice of meditation. You have to do it often and persist at it in order to be any good.” – Katerina Stoykova Klemer

When it comes to self-management, where does “forgiveness” come in? What do you have to forgive and why?

Most important, how does “forgiveness” help you?

It all starts when you are surprised and/or shocked by an event in your life which you choose to interpret negatively.

For example, a loved one dies unexpectedly. Or you lose your job. Or don’t get the promotion you expected. It might be something as simple as someone cutting you off suddenly when you are driving on the highway.

In all of these cases – from the extreme to the commonplace – you might interpret the “surprising and/or shocking” event negatively.

And when you do, something predictable happens.

You enter the 7 Stages of Grieving – often without even knowing it.

These 7 stages are well-documented and researched as the path that we all commonly take when surprised and/or shocked by an event in our lives which we choose to interpret negatively.  In sequence, the stages are…

  1. Surprise and/or shock
  2. Anger
  3. Blame
  4. Denial
  5. Acceptance
  6. Forgiveness
  7. Healing and growth

These 7 stages apply to any event that surprises and/or shocks you including the extremes (death, job) and the less extreme (inattentive driver).

In the situations that you haven’t experienced before (for example, death of a loved one), it’s likely you will move through the stages in sequence, possibly slowly.

However, if you have repeatedly experienced the same type of event (perhaps someone cutting you off on the highway), you may jump past some of the stages really fast so that you end up in Denial very quickly.

Here’s an example.

Someone cuts you off on the highway while you are driving.

The most common knee-jerk responsive is Surprise and/or Shock – Anger -Blame.

“That jerk! Where are the cops when you need them?” You know the drill.

It’s also common at this stage for you to conclude that your anger has nothing to do with you. It was the other person – the “jerk”, who made you angry.

Here’s the important thing to understand…

What most people in this situation don’t know is that they are now actually in stage 4 – Denial.

Because it’s not about the “jerk”.

What they are denying is that they chose to become angry. They chose to let the event of someone cutting them off, trigger a negative emotion.

And, this anger leads directly to stress.

Until we realize that we make ourselves angry (someone else doesn’t do it to us) and then Forgive ourselves for making ourselves angry, the stress will persist.

To get to this Forgiveness (stage 6), we have to Accept (stage 5) that we own our anger. It’s not someone else’s anger. It is ours.

This is a subtle but very important point. To accept that when we get angry, it’s something we are doing to ourselves (even if we think we have a  good “reason” for being angry).

As human beings, we are really good at moving ourselves into denial and triggering stress. We’re not that good at forgiving ourselves.

To get good at forgiveness, we have to do it often and persist, which is why Katerina Stoykova Klemer got it right.

Once we’ve forgiven ourselves, we can move to healing and growth.