Self-Forgiveness & Overcoming Guilt

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guiltWe’ve all done things we regret, but some of us ruminate and punish ourselves with guilt unnecessarily. A little guilt is good. Yes! Guilt actually encourages people to have more empathy for others, to take corrective action, and to improve themselves. Self-forgiveness following guilt is essential to maintain self-esteem, which is key to the enjoyment of life and relationships.

Yet, for many, self-acceptance remains elusive because of unhealthy guilt – sometimes for decades or a lifetime. Guilt may be an unrelenting source of pain. You might believe that you should feel guilty and condemn yourself, not once, but over and over.

Alternatively, guilt may simmer in your unconscious and impact your choices and behavior. Either way, this kind of guilt is insidious and self-destructive and can sabotage your goals. Guilt causes anger and resentment, not only at yourself, but also toward others in order to justify your actions. Anger, resentment, and guilt sap your energy, cause depression and illness and stop you from having success, pleasure, and fulfilling relationships. It keeps you stuck in the past and prevents you from moving forward.

Irrational Guilt

You may feel guilty not only for your actions, but also thoughts: For instance, wishing someone pain, misfortune, or even death; or for feelings, like anger, lust, or greed; or lack of feelings, such as not reciprocating love or friendship, or not feeling grief over the loss of someone close. Although irrational, you might feel guilty for the thoughts, attributes, feelings, and actions of someone else. It’s not unusual for people to feel guilty for leaving their faith or not meeting the expectations of their parents.

People often judge themselves based upon the blame or false accusations emanating from others, which they believe to be true. For example, a woman projects her self-centeredness onto her husband and accuses him of being selfish. He believes it, not realizing it is she who is selfish (attribute). She might blame her insecurity (feeling) on him, claiming he’s flirting, uncaring, or indifferent. A man might blame his anger (feeling) or mistake (action) on his partner, and she wrongly assumes responsibility and feels guilty.

It’s common for codependents to take the blame for others’ behavior, because of weak boundaries and low self-esteem. A spouse might accept her husband’s blame and feel guilty for his drinking or addiction. Victims of abuse or sexual assault frequently feel guilt and shame, despite the fact that they were victims and it’s the perpetrator that is culpable. When it comes to divorce, those initiating it often feel guilty, even though responsibility for their marital problem is shared or was primarily due to their partner.

Shame Distinguished

Guilt should be distinguished from shame, where you feel inferior, inadequate, or bad about who you are versus what you did. When irrational and not absolved, guilt can lead to shame. Shame isn’t constructive. Instead of enhancing empathy and self-improvement, it has the opposite effect. It leads to greater self-preoccupation and undermines both the self and relationships.

How to Forgive Yourself

If you already have low self-esteem or have issues around shame (most people do), it may be difficult to concentrate on what it is you feel guilty about. However, this is necessary in order to get past it. Rationalizing or brushing it under the rug to avoid self-examination may help temporarily, but not achieve self-forgiveness. Alternatively, beating yourself up prolongs guilt and shame and damages your self-esteem; while, accepting responsibility and taking remedial action improves it. Here are suggested steps you can take. I refer to actions, but they apply equally to thoughts or feelings you feel guilty about:

1. If you’ve been rationalizing your actions, take responsibility. “Okay, I did (or said) it.”

2. Write a story about what happened, including how you felt about yourself and others involved before, during, and after.

3. Analyze what were your needs at that time, and were they being met. If not, why not?

4. What were your motives? What or who was the catalyst for your behavior?

5. Does the catalyst remind you of something from your past? Write a story about it, and include dialogue and your feelings.

6. How were your feelings and mistakes handled growing up? Were they forgiven, judged, or punished? Who was hard on you? Were you made to feel ashamed?

7. Evaluate the values, beliefs, and standards by which you’re judging yourself. Are they yours, your parents’, your friends’, your spouse’s, or those of your faith? Do you need their approval? It’s pointless to try to live up to someone else’s expectations. Others’ desires and values have more to do with them. They may never approve, or you may sacrifice yourself and your happiness seeking approval.

8. Identify the values and beliefs that in fact governed you during the event? For example, “Adultery is okay if my spouse never finds out.” Be honest, and decide which values you agree with.

9. Did your actions reflect your true values? If not, trace your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that led to your actions. Think about what may have led you to abandon your values? Notice that you hurt yourself when you violate your values. This actually causes more harm than disappointing someone else.

10. How did your actions affect you and others? Whom did you hurt? Include yourself on the list.

11. Think of ways to make amends? Take action, and make them. For example, if the person is dead, you can write a letter of apology. You can also decide to act differently in the future.

12. Looking back, what healthier beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions would have led to a more desirable result?

13. Do you expect perfection? Has this improved your overall well-being? Perfection is illusory and a manifestation of underlying shame.

14. Would you forgive someone else for the same actions? Why would you treat yourself differently? How does it benefit you to continue to punish yourself?

15. Remorse is healthy and leads to corrective action. Think about what you’ve learned from your experience and how you might act differently today.

16. Write yourself an empathic letter of understanding, appreciation, and forgiveness.

17. Self-talk is powerful. Beware if yours is negative. On a daily basis, repeat words of kindness and forgiveness from your letter, such as, “I’m innocent,” “I forgive myself,” and “I love myself.” Listen to my Self-Love Meditation.

18. Share honestly with others what you did. Don’t share with those who might judge you. If appropriate, talk about what happened in a 12-Step group. Secrecy prolongs guilt and shame.

Realize that you can forgive yourself and still believe you were at fault, just as you might forgive someone else even though you think the person was in the wrong. You can regret what you did, yet accept that you’re human and make mistakes. Perhaps, you did your best, given your circumstances, awareness, maturity, and experience at the time. This is a healthy, humble attitude.

If you continue to have difficulties with self-forgiveness, I recommend my ebook, Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness.  If you’re suffering from shame, which predisposes you to self-loathing and feeling bad about yourself, it’s helpful to see a counselor. See also my blogs on self-nurturing and self-love and my ebook,  10 Steps to Self Esteem to build your self-esteem.
©Darlene Lancer 2013

 

 

 

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EJ
EJ
3 years ago

Hi Darlene, During my freshman year of college (2 years ago), I entered into a relationship with my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. He was still suffering after their breakup, and instead of being a good friend to him, I feel like I betrayed him. I kept it secret from him for a while, until I finally mustered the courage to tell him. He forgave me almost instantly, and now it’s as if nothing happened. But I cannot shake my own guilt–I am frequently disgusted with myself and have started using this mistake as a referendum on my morality. I cannot get… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
4 years ago

Hi, I’m 30 years old and I didn’t understand how dependent I was on my partner until it ended dramatically 2 months ago. In the aftermath I realized that I had been extremely clingy, needy, obsessed, controlling and just not a nice person. I’m devastated. He was the love of my life and my best friend and I drove him away. And I feel so much shame for how I’ve acted and that it was the reason he doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore. I just can’t understand how I could act the way I did and completely… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

There is definitely hope. This was a painful wake-up call. If you were so dependent on him, the relationship wouldn’t have lasted. I strongly urge you to attend CoDA meetings, start therapy, and do the exercises in my book, Conquering Shame. When we feel such shame, we feel unworthy of love, and will sabotage it, distrust it, or reject it. Self-understanding and compassion will help you heal. I suggest reading my blogs on break-ups and listening to my seminar, Breakup Recovery.

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

Ms. Lancer,
I just wanted to say thank you for these amazing steps and intuitively cathartic questions – what a help they’ve been!

Shane
Shane
4 years ago

Dear Darlene. My parents proposed me a girl to marry.I accepted that and associates her till couple of days ago.Its been 3 years relationship. but during that time i found many mistakes from her and i given more time to re correct her mistakes.but she did not listen to me.She did everything as per her own decision and did not willing to accept.I met a another girl in my workstation and had an affair with her.I felt her good qualities and thought to move on with her.I explained everything to my new girlfriend and she agreed to marry me.I stopped… Read more »

M
M
4 years ago

how to forgive yourself, if you have intentionally
killed someone???

Ghazal
Ghazal
4 years ago

Hi. I am student studying to get into university. And my mom was a house wife who dedicated all her youth for us and for me. So when she told me she was going to work just 2days a week and for 6 hrs.i was really happy for her And she asked me like a thousand times that if you jave a problem or cant study i wont go. But i didnt want her to dedicate her life to us anymore and i wanted ger to start donig things she enjoyed. So i said no mom , i will be… Read more »

Neil
Neil
5 years ago

I lived with a woman for nearly 5 years. Last September we broke up because of her alcoholism; she became abusive, it was the second time. She died of advanced liver disease this June 2016. She begged me to let her come back, and I realized about 2 months before she died that I should have. But I didn’t because I was seeing someone else. I made my soulmate’s life pure misery for the last months of her life. I let down my BFF. I DID love her more than life and anything on earth and was only fooling myself.… Read more »

David
David
5 years ago

Hi Darlene and all, I am going through a tough time dealing with the fact that my fiance has very quickly moved on and has a new partner. Together her and I have 2 beautiful girls ages 7 and 2. We created a home for both of them and majority (95%) of the things in the house were purchased by me. My fiance and I got into an a verbal argument in early December regarding her on-going disloyalty, for years she has repeatedly sexted multiple men and repeatedly her high school ex. Today I snooped through her phone and read… Read more »

Robert
Robert
6 years ago

Hi: I am a Vietnam Vet diagnosed with PTSD, Bi-Polar, and schizophrenia. Recently, I got drunk with my girlfriend of 5 years, and out of the blue, I went off on her in a verbal tirade. The only other time this has happen was when I first returned from Vietnam and I did the same thing to my Mother, I was sober. (This was 48 years ago) I am so ashamed, and guilt ridden, along with being remorseful. I did send my girlfriend a letter of apology, and taking full responsiblity for my actions. It seems easy to forgive someone… Read more »

brl
brl
6 years ago

Recently played at a open mic at a bar with a very small older crown of six or so…

Played some indie songs they wouldn’t know, they asked my if they were original songs and I said yes! I felt horrible afterwards and called them about it, but I still feel really guilty. Trying to forgive myself but finding it hard to do so.

woof
woof
6 years ago

I am a girl, I have been in fear and shame for 8 months, when I talked with a man on skype, he is a nice man, and our relationship went deeper, one day he asked me to send him some nude pics without face, I hesitated, but eventually I sent some to him. After sent them, I feel it is wrong, I asked him to delete these pics, and he said he did it. But I am always worrying if he didn’t do it, and if these photos are put on internet, I feel shameful about it, I can’t… Read more »

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

I have just discovered your website and it is so helpful and sincere. Thank you for sharing your advice and wisdom. I have lived with guilt and regret for many years. My question is, how can I forgive myself and release myself from guilt and shame, when the wrongs that I did have real ongoing physical effects on myself, and on those I love, and I live with the reminders of that every day? I did not do anything malicious. The wrongs I have done were because of being reckless, impetuous, foolish, selfish and having low self-esteem. But the effects… Read more »

Jasmine
Jasmine
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, I have been feeling guilty for a very long time. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 1 year and 3 months. All was well in the beginning, until I caught him talking to other girls. I was hurt, but forgave him because I understood his explanation of insecurity and fear of losing in relationships. However, shortly after this ordeal, I gave another man a lap dance at a party. There was no groping or kissing, just the traditional lap dance. I thought it was harmless, so I told my boyfriend a few months later. He nearly broke up… Read more »

Sri
Sri
6 years ago

i stole money and some things from others.. i look into another’s personal things.. and all my past misakes i feel guilty of me…hurt to live..how i wil get rid of all these and how i am going to make happy my family…how i going to get a job…how i wil improve to high position in this society..i want to live with self respect who and all avoided me and who and all insulted me but how i dont know… but sometimes thinking all my past..i hurt myself and i hurt to live… i feel ashame and guilty…i want to… Read more »

Sri
Sri
6 years ago

hi..i feel guilt and ashame myself for the following reasons.. 1)i start to do al mistakes when i am alone..i stay night alone during my 5th std so i use to see tv by usual when i change the channels i saw one english movie doing sex from that i start to see like that this is my very 1st mistake 2)then during my 7th std unexpectedly i get one casette which is in my home so i check that what it will be in that ..it is a sex casette which my dad hide it from us. 3)after seeing… Read more »

Godfrey
Godfrey
6 years ago

Hi Darlene I have a problem that i can’t overcome, i think i have insecurities or guilt, i always feel angry or sad whenever my girlfriend goes out, when she is out and i am home or at work i just get this depressing feeling moody , angry etc even when she gets back im just moody and angry i cant really control the feeling, this feeling is destroying me a lot, my mind is just thinking negative things , i do try t o be positive but i end up going back to thinking negative. i value my relationship… Read more »

Karina Wells
Karina Wells
7 years ago

You seem lovely and very approachable, hence my comment. Today, one of my close friends was showing me her new car, all it’s features and the price they paid for it. Unfortunately the car was parked in a garage and as I went to open the door to look inside, I accidentally knocked the door against their brick wall which made a small chip. I feel absolutely gutted and so guilty that I am feeling quite physically sick. I apologized numerous amounts, and offered to get the car fixed, however, the guilt remains. Please advise on how to accept, and… Read more »

Leonidas
Leonidas
7 years ago

Dr. Lancer, thank you for the article and for your work. In hindsight, I see that I have experienced guilt and shame almost my entire life, due to my need to conform to to my family’s/relatives’ image of what I *should* be. One of the hardest aspects of this guilt revolves around sexuality, something that was always considered filthy, bad and immoral by my overtly conservative and religious family environment. Even though I’m at my mid-30’s now, I have never been able to let go of the burden that lust and sexual desire are bad things. I have done therapy… Read more »

Dean
Dean
7 years ago

This is a little different to all the other ‘confessions’. I’m sorry if it’s also a little too explicit but I do need to put in some details as it’ll allow me to depict my situation properly. I was getting a blowjob for the first time from my girlfriend (at the time) and she was explaining to me how it was hard for her,because it was her first time. She wasn’t very good at it which I could obviously understand but I was curious as to just how difficult it actually is and how some people are just naturally better… Read more »

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

Whenever I get stressed, I cannot help but feel guilty for putting my parents in this situation. Basically I’m 22 years old and still living home with my parents and sister, all of whom need the car as much as I do. Normally I’m able to ignore this feeling, but after a long day at school, I just can’t help it and end up taking out all my frustration on my poor mother. Being as I need the car alot for school, I’m not sure what to do any more. I just can’t help the guilt of knowing that had… Read more »

Guilty...
Guilty...
7 years ago

I have been in in my relationship for almost 10 years.For the most part it was very good but about 6 years ago my (now fiance) developed very severe anxiety. I was supportive of her and have continued to be since then. Previous to her anxiety we had a very healthy sex life but since we have rarely been intimate in the last few years with almost no intimacy in the last three. I’m a very sexual person but over time I thought I had gotten used to the lack of intimacy but then about a year ago I started… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

I was with my husband for 7 years and he was my only boyfriend and my first love and we got married and had 2 children, he cheated on me and we ended up separating, and then got back together and then he cheated on me again…. Then we got back together and we just recently got back together but things just arent the same I cant sleep with him or anything and I ended up cheating, and I feel guilty about it but I am so hurt and just beyond myself and dont know how to not feel guilty… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

His betrayal must have been so heartbreaking. Ask yourself why his feelings are more important than your own, how and why did you convince yourself you could trust him again, and what did you do with your anger toward him.

Cheryl
Cheryl
7 years ago

Hi, After 40 years of self-imposed guilt, I’m trying to sort it out and figure out how to let it go. I’ve blamed myself for the death of my father and his best friend who died in a plane crash after leaving my HS Baccalaureate. I’ve often wondered if I had delayed them would it have changed, and felt that if they hadn’t come to see me graduate it wouldn’t have happened. It’s “my” fault. There is a lot of story behind this. I don’t know how to let this go. I can’t afford therapy but somehow this needs to… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl

It’s very sad that you would do this to yourself, rather than gratitude to be able to cherish the happy occasion that you both shared together before your father died, which would come with acceptance. There’s an element of anger in guilt. If you can allow yourself to fully feel angry that they died, you might stop turning that anger on yourself. It may result in more sadness and grief, but that’s normal, and can lead to acceptance. Grief includes various stages that include anger and often guilt. What you’re experiencing is part of “bargaining,” thinking “if only I hadn’t”… Read more »

Cheryl
Cheryl
7 years ago

Hi Darlene, There is so much more to this story than what appears. Our relationship wasn’t a good one before he died. He was the pilot in his own personal plane. I know my guilt is irrational but I don’t quite see where shame fits into the picture. I did finally talk to the widow of the other adult in the plane, my dad’s best friend. She said she has never blamed me. It has taken me 40 years to be able to talk to her. I now almost wonder if it’s been so long ingrained in me that I… Read more »

Jaymie
Jaymie
8 years ago

Hi, I just realized that I am co dependent. My boyfriend broke up with me because I basically pushed him away and we do not speak anymore. I feel guilty for acting the way I did and sometimes I find myself constantly thinking about him and I don’t know why. My ex is an addict and no good for me. Ive been reading your book and I’m learning alot about myself. I guess my question is, is my constant thinking about him is that just part of me being co-dependent? I’m just very confused. Thanks

Darlene Lancer, MFT
8 years ago
Reply to  Jaymie

Yes, obsession is one of the symptoms, but more than that, being involved with an addict isn’t good for your self-esteem. The addiction comes first, so you’ve been in a relationship where your needs and feelings weren’t valued, and yet you want more of it. That’s the real problem. He did you a favor by breaking up. If he’s blaming you, that’s just what addict’s do. Go to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and work on loving yourself, and follow all the suggestions in my blog. Good luck on your journey of reclaiming yourself!

Morag
Morag
8 months ago

Trying to escape his grief my ex cheated on me and left me for the other woman. I knew he was grieving but I was really hurt and so I created a fake social media persona and secretly got between them, they broke up but I continued to hound him. He would confide in the persona I created, who was a beautiful young, sexy and empathic woman and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about him. When he was completely hooked I used everything he told me to take him down piece by piece until he was… Read more »

Tiar
Tiar
8 months ago

After continuous persuasion from my mom, I told her secrets about my sister. I did this out of spite because I was feeling frustrated and angry at how my sister had been treating me. As soon as the secrets had left my lips, I felt ashamed and disgusted at violating my sister’s trust. My mom did say that she would never repeat what was said to her but I know that this will change our family dynamics forever. My mom will use this knowledge to justify her controlling, overbearing and strict parenting.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 months ago

Thank you for this post. I realized that I cheated on my ex multiple times. We broke up, but he never found out about my deception. It was my first relationship, and there were major violations of trust on his end in the first several months of dating. However, I realize now that I didn’t need to take the dirty route and should have either put my foot down or left. When I was honest about my feelings, I was shut down, and I knew he was pressuring me into a kind of arrangement that I didn’t want. I was… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
10 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Do the exercises outlined in this blog to find self-compassion. Listen to my self-compassion meditation, and perhaps get counseling to get to the root of your guilt.

hurt and bothered
hurt and bothered
10 months ago

I crossed a line in my marriage by inappropriately chatting with a male friend. I came clean to my spouse, ceased all contact and he has forgiven me. In the past he had a sexual affair with a friend he pushed me to know, We have healed from that. There has been hurt on both sides with me being the most recent betrayer. We are closer than ever and have a marriage with NO SECRETS now. Other things were found out on both side and forgiven on both sides. We both love each other deeply are are committed to being… Read more »

....
....
10 months ago

some back story – we each had a traumatic childhood and adopted many toxic/negative coping mechanisms. During the time I had that conversation with the other male. My husband was denying me, unwilling to work on us, unwilling to compromise, grow or be emotionally vulnerable. I was trying and pushing him away with my attempts to being us closer. We have acknowledged this and dug deep to understand why we behaved the way we did and have a greater understanding of ourselves and each other. Our love is strong and deep, but I still feel immense guilt with my actions.… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
10 months ago
Reply to  ....

Do the exercises here and in my ebook, Freedom from Guilt. If still insufficient, seek therapy to understand the deeper reasons why you behaved as you did and find self-compassion. Also, see my blogs on that and my Self-Love Meditation.

Meredith
Meredith
11 months ago

Hi, I feel so bad. My ex boyfriend broke up with me some months ago. Then he came back saying that he regretted breaking up with me. I felt so hurt but wanted him back as well. Basically, In a week I played back and forth the I want you and don’t want you which hurt him badly. I wasn’t sure if we could be together, things were just different. I feel like I deserve everything bad for this. I really didn’t want to hurt him, my heart intentions were pure but I just didn’t feel the same. How can… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
11 months ago
Reply to  Meredith

You can empathize without feeling guilty. Regret is different than guilt also. We’re responsible for our actions, not other people’s feelings. Seems like he hurt you too, and you couldn’t forgive him. So why is his hurt more important than yours? Heal from Codependency and learn to value your feelings and have boundaries.

John
John
1 year ago

A friend of mine recently got fired from his job due to sexual molestation. He flirted with his former colleague and the 2 of them were enjoying it until another colleague saw them. She quickly turned the whole thing on my friend that he harassed her and eventually he got sacked. This has got my friend worried because he is concerned about his career if this will not be used against him in the future like in politics or senior position. The guilt he is feeling within himself is becoming too much and I fear if he is not gonna… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  John

Hi should speak with an employment lawyer to learn his rights and remedies. He can also do the exercises on this blog and read my ebook

Isis
Isis
1 year ago

While me & my ex were broke up I had sex with a close mutual friend between us. Trying to get over the heart break but it didn’t work so I stopped sex with the mutual friend. We both decided to take this secret to the grave & now we’re just back to being just friends. Now 2 years later, I’m back with the ex & I just feel so guilty. I can’t tell him because I know he’ll break up with me for good. How do I move past this? I just feel like this worst person ever.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Isis

Your situation is not uncommon. You need to find a solution. See my blog, “Secrets and Lies” and do the steps in my ebook, Freedom from Guilt.

dimyan
dimyan
1 year ago

hi dr. i recently did bad thing in my families. i argue over freedom, (sleep over at friends), my father according to parenting he is very strict and old school. so that day i tried to find smting to harm them without hurting their health so as i watched in film I put my poop&(urine) in the boiling soup so that.. thinking the boiling pressure kill any bacteria in it.. and that i can get my revenge too so as a result nobody was hurt in any way but i ws burned inside start to get ashamed of what i… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  dimyan

You have a lot of unexpressed anger toward your parents. Instead of acting out in self-destructive ways, forgive yourself by taking steps toward greater autonomy and learn to stand up to your father in healthy ways. Seek therapy to help you.

Dr Zaib abbas
Dr Zaib abbas
1 year ago

Hi,
I feel extreme guilt over the fact that I did not help my sister after her C. section and post partum depression..She was mentally and physically hurting and I did nothing to help cause I was too busy with my job.She eventually had to be hospitalized for a week after having a nervous breakdown.I was basically too scared to ask for any time off from work to help my sister.I hate my selfish and cowradly behaviour.My sister and I are still very close but I can not get over the fact that I let down her trust in me.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Dr Zaib abbas

You would benefit from the exercises in my ebook. If not, seek counseling to find peace.

Bria
Bria
1 year ago

Please help….I just said something so rude and disrespectful in my virtual school and I feel like I deserve to die for making my poor teacher feel that way. I’m a terrible person who doesn’t deserve to get an education.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Bria

Guilt is a healthy emotion as in your case where you have empathy for your teacher. What is unhealthy is your self-shaming. Empower yourself and say something like, “I apologize for the disrespectful, hurtful things I said.”

Ganesh
Ganesh
1 year ago

Thank you so much for that! I really loved this. I was really feeling so down. Honestly i want to forgive myself. I will definitely forgive anyone who just understands their fault. So I will forgive myself.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Hi..I hurt my mother a couple of times emotionally, to the point of her crying, due to me overreacting about cleanliness issues, when I’d spend one month a year with my parents during 2012 – 2017. My pet peeve was about mother not keeping the house clean. I would clean up the entire big place but I’d occasionally overreact, too. I could never apologize to her in words. This was not common in my community. Mother was affected by dementia 3 and half years ago. Although I have been really helpful, since last September I’ve been feeling from time to… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Ben

I’m sure you have legitimate reasons for your anger. You need to uncover and accept them. Do the exercises in this blog and in my ebook. If not helpful, consider counseling to help you accept your mother.

J
J
1 year ago

Dear Mrs. Lancer, although I understand it intellectually, sometimes there is still this sense of shame that washes over me. Recently I experienced a separation with my partner, and I blamed myself a lot. I remember many of my toxicity in the relationship, for example being overly emotional, defensive and got hurt due to some criticisms. I seek many reassurance as well. I know that my need of sharing a deeper emotional connection didn’t meet in the relationship, but I wasn’t sure whether my need was just too unrealistic. How can I forgive mself, knowing that I was the one… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  J

It sounds like you need help in understanding and recovering from codependency, but that the dynamics in the relationship were a big part of the problem. Read Codependency for Dummies and my blogs on relationships. Attend Coda and consider counseling for more understanding and help.

Pratik
Pratik
1 year ago

I had a 3 month relationship after my brokeup with my ex gf after few months she came bck to me nd I broke up with the other girl to get In with my ex without telling her Abt that 3 month relationship she just found out by instagram I’d of mine Abt it nd I lie with her she got broken first time in whole life she cried alot nd I feel so guilty Abt it…how could I b like this I don’t know wht happened to me at that time we were from 5 years together nd I… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Pratik

Do the steps suggested in the blog and in my ebook on Finding Self-Forgiveness. You were deceptive with two women. Rather than punish yourself, consider your values, your fears and motivations for why you did that. Grow from your mistakes and practice self-compassion. Life can be a stern teacher.

oasky
oasky
1 year ago

Hi, I’m 22 and dating my girlfriend for the last 7 years in a long distance relationship. We meet one a year and during this time i always felt strong affection for her. However we argued through many ugly stuffs and I was always the one who made mistakes and messed everything up. Very recently, I have flirting with my workmate and she was coincidently read it. I caused so much pain for her by now but I have never wanted to cheat on my loyal girlfriend. No one can ever replace her. She decided to leave because I’m not… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  oasky

Having a committed relationship exclusive from the age of 15 is unusual and didn’t allow you the chance to mature and experience dating relationships. Plus, it appears there were issues that went unaddressed in the relationship, likely due to immaturity or other issues. Seek counseling to understand yourself and gain better relationship skills. The flirting was no accident in a long-distance relationship that shouldn’t have lasted 7 years to begin with. Find out why you stayed so long!

Berny
Berny
1 year ago

Greetings Miss Darlene. My problem here is troubling… When I was on my 20, I gave sexting a chance and encountered a cute girl who said she was 13. I thought she was role playing and went on to sext, sharing nudes and all. When we finished, she revealed to me she was actually 13. After saying goodbye I deleted my account permanently and didn’t do anymore sexting. The guilt was eating me but after sometime I managed with it, but now it came back and stronger. I don’t know what do and I am scare if I talk to… Read more »

Life_Struggler
Life_Struggler
1 year ago
Reply to  Berny

I don’t think you’re a paedophile. It sounds like you’re a very mature and sensible person, having learnt a lot from your experience – in ways which would not have been possible if you had never made the incorrect decision to sext. Everybody sometimes makes the wrong decision – it is part of what makes us human. I don’t know your life circumstances, but I’m sure unfortunate childhood experiences will have played their part. So you have coped well in life given the difficulties you have had to struggle with. The 13-year-old girl too will have developed in ways which… Read more »

Carlton Hanson
Carlton Hanson
1 year ago

I am writing for a friend of mine, Carlton. I am very worried about both him and his wife, Charlotte. Carlton resently left Charlotte, recently meaning the last 3 months or so for another woman. We live in a small town and I fear that once it becomes public about his affair he will face terrible shame. It is a surprise to the few of us who know of the affair. His wife, Charlotte adored her husband, Carlton. It is my understanding divorce papers have been filed. I do not know which of them filed for divorce. I feel this… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Carlton Hanson

Affairs don’t just happen. They reflect deeper problems in the marriage and individuals you likely did not know about.

Lindsay
Lindsay
2 years ago

I drank alcohol – several beers – at 8 weeks pregnant. I am broken over this and don’t know how I will ever be able to forgive myself. I’m so scared I have harmed my child, this gift from God.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

Talk to your doctor. Many children are born without any defects. Also, defects occur when moms are sober too!

tami saghafi
tami saghafi
2 years ago

Hi, i am a divorced woman raising 2 kids on my own. I can’t stop feeling guilty when I called the police on my ex 6 years ago when he almost got violent. I had lived with him for 12 years and we always fought over his drinking problems and never were doing well financially until he left. He stayed in jail for 3 days and with the restraining order , he stayed at his business. He was happy to be away and a year later the divorce was final. Now he has lost the business, is homeless and having… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago
Reply to  tami saghafi

You must attend Al-Anon meetings. There you’ll learn that someone’s addiction has nothing to do with you. Read my “14 Tips for Letting Go,” and the 3 C’s. You didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. He’s suffering the consequences of his addiction. If you were patient, you might now feel guilty for enablinghim.

RAHUL JADHAV
RAHUL JADHAV
3 years ago

Hi Darlene,
There was this one time when I lied about something which I’d never achieved to my friends. This is something which is bogging me down and making me low on confidence

Mars
Mars
3 years ago

It’s fascinating how the things written about on this wall have been committed by a large number of people in our modern world, yet a minorty (us who are posting) battle the excruciating pain of feeling bad about our actions. Some people wake up the next morning unwounded and go about their day and ironically have more chance of improving and becoming better people because they learn and move on but don’t care too much.

Heartbroken
Heartbroken
3 years ago

Hello, Firstly your a gem for responding to everyone. I was with the love of my life for 3.5 years and I was SOOOO happy, and then something changed. He wasnt making me happy anymore. I tried talking to him so many times but he wasnt interested in listening. I cheated on him and left him for someone else. I am still with that person and I feel sick to my stomach every single day for what I did This new man is so amazing to me & I dont deserve it. Will I ever get over this? Even though… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Heartbroken

There’s no quick answer to your question. I have worked with people who have cheated and had affairs in a marriage, and they can get past the guilt and shame, but it takes work and there are concrete steps to doing that. Did you do he exercises in the blog? Also see my ebook: Freedom from Guilt

MELANIE BROWN
MELANIE BROWN
3 years ago
Reply to  Heartbroken

IT’S NOT LIKE YOU DIDN’T TRY SOMETHING SIMILAR HAPPENED TO ME I LEFT MY HUSBAND OF 20 YRS FOR SOMEONE ELSE I MET WORST OF ALL IT WAS ONE OF HIS FRIENDS BUT GUILT OVERCAME ME AND I WENT BACK NOW I AM LIVING AN UNHAPPY LIFE YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW AND IT’S HARD NOT TO FEEL GUILTY RIGHT I GET THAT BUT YOU WEREN’T DOING THE OTHER MAN ANY FAVORS BY STAYING WITH HIM TO MAKE HIM HAPPY HE WILL GET OVER IT WORRY ABOUT YOUR ON HAPPINESS FIRST AS SELFISH AS THAT SOUNDS YOU NEED… Read more »

Jo
Jo
3 years ago

I feel so guilty and ashamed of myself. I was holding money for my BF’s aunt for months now. I recently used the money to pay off an unexpected expense 3 days ago. I planned on giving the money back as soon as I get paid on the next upcoming paycheck. She never asked me about the money & I never touched until a day after I spent the money. I told her about my issue & she seemed okay about the incident and told me not to worry about. This morning my BF confronted me & although he was… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Jo

Do the exercises suggested in the blog. It sounds like you’re exceedingly hard on yourself, and my need to address underlying shame in Conquering Shame

anonymous
anonymous
3 years ago

I was a player and played with a guy’s feelings for a year. I never thought that it was wrong since he is paranoid and not ready for any kind of commitment too. but I always knew that he is a very kind person. after we broke up, I left him totally devastated for months, and yet, I still kept in touch with him and messed around with his feelings. Now I know what I did was so selfish and wrong 🙁 I am totally ashamed of myself

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  anonymous

Consider getting my books, Freedom from Guilt and Conquering Shame to discover the real motive for your behavior and heal the deeper forces driving it.

EJ
EJ
3 years ago

Hi Darlene, During my freshman year of college (2 years ago), I entered into a relationship with my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. He was still suffering after their breakup, and instead of being a good friend to him, I feel like I betrayed him. I kept it secret from him for a while, until I finally mustered the courage to tell him. He forgave me almost instantly, and now it’s as if nothing happened. But I cannot shake my own guilt–I am frequently disgusted with myself and have started using this mistake as a referendum on my morality. I cannot get… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  EJ

It’s significant that you’re harder on yourself than your friend is. It suggests deeper issues of shame (disgust) and guilt. Do the exercises in Conquering Shame and Codependency and seek the help of a therapist to uncover what’s really driving your self-abuse.

Lisa
Lisa
4 years ago

Hi, I’m 30 years old and I didn’t understand how dependent I was on my partner until it ended dramatically 2 months ago. In the aftermath I realized that I had been extremely clingy, needy, obsessed, controlling and just not a nice person. I’m devastated. He was the love of my life and my best friend and I drove him away. And I feel so much shame for how I’ve acted and that it was the reason he doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore. I just can’t understand how I could act the way I did and completely… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

There is definitely hope. This was a painful wake-up call. If you were so dependent on him, the relationship wouldn’t have lasted. I strongly urge you to attend CoDA meetings, start therapy, and do the exercises in my book, Conquering Shame. When we feel such shame, we feel unworthy of love, and will sabotage it, distrust it, or reject it. Self-understanding and compassion will help you heal. I suggest reading my blogs on break-ups and listening to my seminar, Breakup Recovery.

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