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Ending Self-Blame and Shame: Can We Forgive our Unforgivable Acts?

30 Jul 2015 | Posted Under Mindset


Ending Self-Blame and Shame: Can We Forgive our Unforgivable Acts?

What can a person do if they have done something that they feel is beyond redemption? I once knew a very kind, compassionate and talented doctor who, while driving under the influence of alcohol, killed a child. He was never the same. Understandably, he was wracked with guilt. It affected his personal life, his work and his spirit. All the good that he had done and could have continued to do seemed to be erased from his consciousness, and he began to think of himself as “unredeemable.”


But he wasn’t.  He, like everyone else, no matter how badly we have behaved–with or without intention–can be granted grace–an unmerited favor or pardon from a Higher Power.


Most people believe in some sort of Higher Power. It may be your own “soul” self, your God, or even a 12-Step group that is the one thing that is there to assist you when you cannot assist yourself. Accepting the reality that grace does exist is perhaps the most powerful insight people can gain from attending such programs. Step Seven says, “We would like to be assured that the grace of God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”


Coming to believe in and accept that you are entitled to grace can be a real turning point in a person’s recovery–whether it be recovery from substance abuse, shame and guilt related to an “unredeemable” act, or other forms of self-and-other-destructiveness­. Shame, guilt and remorse often hinder the progress of individuals who might really want to make a change for the better. So self-forgiveness is a key to making the turn from destructive behavior to healing.


With grace comes unconditional forgiveness­­–a deeper, more compassionate forgiveness of self and others that can only come from connecting with one’s Higher Power and asking for its grace. But when accessed, this grace can free one from the self-destructive spiral of feeling unworthy and then seeking relief from that pain through inappropriate means and self-punishment.


Unconditional forgiveness allows for compassionate self-acceptance, that means coming to accept–without resistance–the reality of where you are right now–warts and all–and choosing to commit to and focus on positive behavioral options instead of pain, guilt, shame and perceived inadequacies. Compassionate self-acceptance allows you to distance yourself from self-defeating behaviors. It frees you to acknowledge, and therefore address, rather than run from, your mistakes. When self-induced shame and disappointment, are removed, the result is an automatic increase of your commitment to change. And that is the first step toward healing.

Rita Milios, LCSW, The Mind Mentor, is a psychotherapist, author and speaker from Hudson, FL. Her practice, Inner Peace Professional Counseling, focuses on "mind-tools" training for self-transformation. Call 863-496-7223 or email for more information.

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