Forgiving Yourself for the Past

Some days I find myself overtaken by difficult memories of the past. I remember things I wish I would not have done, or things I wish I would not have said. It can be painful to recall those moments, and too easy to dwell on them. Here are some techniques I work on to let those old memories go.

Thought-stopping – When I notice that I am dwelling on these past moments too much, I catch myself and actively replace those thoughts with a positive thought or a thought that brings peace. Or I will notice I’m dwelling on these past moments and stop myself by taking a deep breath and saying a mantra like “I love myself.” This takes a lot of effort and, honestly, I am not very good at doing this, but I work on it. 

Healing the Past – When a past moment is sitting too heavily in me, I will spend time visualizing the past moment and reliving it with love. I practice opening my heart in that moment and pray that any harm that came out of my actions or words will be mollified. This practice has been really helpful and beneficial to me. 

Making Amends – When I know something I’ve said or done has been hurtful to another, I reach out to them and ask for forgiveness. This is similar to the fifth step in the Twelve Steps. I was in high school the first time I made amends in this way. I apologized to a girl my friends and I were mean to in fourth grade. We used to run away from her and hide from her. There was no rhyme or reason to it. As I got older, I realized how awful this was, especially once I was bullied in middle school. I ran into her one day and told her how sorry I was for what we had done to her. It took a bit of courage, but was easier to do than I expected, and I hope it helped both of us heal. I’ve done that in other ways since, but I will always remember the first time I apologized for hurting someone. 

Connecting to Love – The best way to forgive yourself is to connect to God’s love, the Big Love in your heart. When you sit in silence and feel God’s love cover you completely, you are already forgiven. It is that easy. God loves you for who you are, and you can return to God’s love at any time.

It’s ok to let go of the past. We are all here to learn and grow and heal, and we are all still learning. You can forgive yourself for what you did in error, before you knew a different way. We all make mistakes. Make amends to those you may have harmed. Become the person you know you are.