The Price of Non-Forgiveness

The other day, while working with a client, the subject of forgiveness came up.

She had made a mistake some years ago, and was still angry with herself for her misstep.

As with most everything that happens in life, her mistake affected others. And, for a little while, there was a very real possibility that her family would not make it through the challenge intact.

Now, just as an aside, other people had a part in the mistake. My client could forgive them. But she wasn’t anywhere close to letting herself off the hook. Over the years, her habit of non-forgiveness got really expensive. She paid for her mistake in the currency of guilt and shame. She was living in a space of greatly diminished emotional capacity.

When any of her family members had difficulty, she blamed herself for their troubles. She took their pain on as her own. She reasoned that “bad” things would not have happened to the people she loved if she had not made the initial mistake that led to their pre-makeover life.

Her thinking is only kinda crazy. It’s also sort of genius.

Because there’s a thread of truth in it.

EVERY part of their new beautiful life was only possible because the difficulty, transformed through courage and compassion, led to this gorgeous new life. Ironically, she doesn’t take credit for the good stuff that happens. Just the difficulties.

Clearly, she would benefit from forgiving herself. But she can’t.

She doesn’t think she deserves it.

Maybe you’ve felt this way. Maybe you find some piece of your history so egregious, you can’t imagine letting yourself off the hook for the harm you caused to yourself and others.

But here’s the thing, Sweet Pea – with respect to creating your own Midlife Reinvention story, you only have so much emotional space available for change.

You can’t hold emotional freedom in the space where self-hatred resides. (click to tweet)

Worse, since all action is rooted in thought, you can’t take sustainable right-action toward the new life you want. You’ve squandered a corner of your emotional thought-space on self-hatred.

You can have your guilt, you can have your self-disgust, but you will pay for these choices dearly. Self-hatred is an extremely weighty and expensive indulgence.

Can you afford it? If not, and you’re ready to begin moving toward emotional freedom, let us know in the comments below. Don’t worry, we’re not looking to be voyeurs to the scintillating details of your devilish ways. Begin with just the feelings.

What feeling are you willing to release so that you can make a better emotional choice?

You’re not alone. We’re all doing it together. Yep, that’s part of what we’re doing here at Life After Tampons. We are building a community of women supporting each other so that change happens. To be part of that community, please sign up for updates here.

Yours in Peace and Joy, Jennifer


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18 Responses to The Price of Non-Forgiveness

  1. Stuart Young says:

    I always ask 2 questions of people stuck in non-forgiveness: #1 What do you benefit most by NOT forgiving? #2 What would you benefit most BY forgiving? This can bring enormous clarity as to why they continue not forgiving and how to find the motivation to change. Good article. 🙂

  2. Nicole D. says:

    That I don’t deserve this

  3. Carol Hess says:

    As long as we can’t forgive ourselves and love ourselves, warts and all, we can’t step into our authentic and full power. And the world needs us to do that. The world needs all the special genius and light we bring — not just some of it.

    When we hold onto guilt and won’t forgive ourselves, I’m wondering if it isn’t a subconscious way to feel more powerful? “Look at all the pain and suffering I caused. That’s how powerful I am.”

  4. Dawn L. says:

    Balance. Emotional freedom for me means when I examine the defects or negative attributes that lead to a certain action, I also make sure I acknowledge my strengths positive attributes. I am a good person, but I am human and I slip up. It is easier to beat myself up instead of talking it out with someone close – then I do not have to face my actions and make the changes needed so that it is less likely to happen again. Change is hard, but necessary for emotional freedom.

  5. Anne says:

    The feeling of fear that I’ll be rejected by loved ones or judged as not worthy….I’m pretty sure that’s what the feeling is…..though I’m not sure I’ve allowed myself to admit that before. Thank you~I can handle that possibility.

    • Jennifer says:

      Go, you!!!! Congrats on saying out loud the thing you couldn’t even say to yourself. Now, deep breath, and calm reflection on what, if anything, to do next. J

  6. Pegi Sarcomo says:

    The difficulty in forgiveness for myself is while living my new authentic life I see my adult children suffering from my past mistakes. I still find it difficult to forgive myself when my mistakes are making them suffer now. My old behaviors that I now see playing out in my adult children cut like a knife, I must remind myself the only way to right my wrong is by continuing on my “right path” so that one day my example may pull them up onto their “right path”. Forgiveness for others difficult but possible, forgiveness for myself…..down right impossible.

    • Jennifer says:

      This was so very brave of you. And I intuitively feel that you have come to your own “best” solution. When we don’t know, we don’t know. And we do what we do because we don’t have tools to do better. And, even now, with a modicum of enlightenment, I’m sure there is still so much that I don’t know, but act on anyway.

      That’s kinda sorta the deal with the human experience. If we are spiritual beings living a human condition rather than human beings living a spiritual one, then the limits of humanity will be there for all of us.

      So, forgiveness of self and others. And lots of mercy to go around.

      Thank you for your beautiful brave heart!

      Love, J

    • Cheryl says:

      Pegi, I am in the same situation and have the same feelings. My adult son is suffering because of my mistakes. I don’t have a right path because I feel that I should suffer,too. This is crazy and I don’t know how to get out of this.

  7. Jeanette2 says:

    First commenter said “I always ask 2 questions of people stuck in non-forgiveness: #1 What do you benefit most by NOT forgiving? #2 What would you benefit most BY forgiving?”
    Not forgiving = a sort of defense against anyone else being angry or critical toward me. I can answer that person with, “Hey, I’m first in line here already castigating myself (I’m in control) so you have to be 2nd or 3rd in line and wait!”
    Benefit by forgiving and loving myself: Soften. Be more open & less defended.

  8. Jeanette says:

    Self-forgiveness…I was once given the image of a closet, full to overflowing with all of the ‘stuff’ of life. Holding on to anything for too long, be it negative emotion, unhealthy habits or people-recriminations of self or other- doesn’t leave room for new experiences…fresh, healthy ‘stuff’. The weight of it all makes it a hard room to go into, much less clean out…but reinvention requires it, doesn’t it? I am still working on it but the image has helped me open up a great deal.

    As an educator of children with challenges, I see that each challenge has a flip side positive-children who are dyslexic tend to be incredible artists. Children with Aspergers can be incredible analysts. I love your point regarding the positives that come from our mistakes; while not always evident in the moment (or for years!), they act as Life’s way of showing us forgiveness, asking/allowing us to forgive…and dare I say it…they are redemptive if we allow them?

    I love this place…I feel…oh hell, i just love this place! thanks for it, Jen!

  9. Priska says:

    Being a part of the sandwich generation I see/feel two sides.
    I look at my parents and see how their behavior contributed to some of the issues I had as a younger adult. I now understand that they did the best they knew how at the time but when I was younger and I tried to share this with them they were stumped and bewildered that I felt this way, I could not understand that they did not see nor understand life from my perspective.
    I am now the parent of adult children who have made me aware actions I took impacted on them in ways difficult to shake and overcome.
    Whilst I acknowledge that I did the best that I knew at the time and have forgiven myself, it still hurts that I unknowingly brought pain and sorrow into the life of a young person who believed and trusted me.
    Unlike my parents, I have apologized and accepted responsibility for my behavior.
    Though I cannot change the past, and know I did the best I knew how, a part of me wishes I knew better because my children deserved better.

  10. Genny says:

    Sometimes it is easier to stay down then to rise up again and fall down again. Afraid of making mistakes AGAIN, because it is terrifying to make mistakes especially when you know other people around you suffer because of it. But then again, who is perfect, who can actually claim that they are perfect? It’s by rising up again and again (even if we fall down) that we realize when we look down that everybody else around us makes mistake and end up being in the same place we were. It takes humility to accept that we are going to make mistakes that are going to affect not only us but people around us. That is the price to pay to love and be loved by family and friends.

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