Thursday, May 19, 2016

Self-forgiveness: 10 stages along the road less traveled

By Virginia Mburu
Ringrrrr.......Ringrrrrrrr......Ringrrrrr.......... 

Mwakazi picks up the phone and dreads what is to follow when he realizes who the caller is - Mr. Mbingwa- The CEO, Mbingwa Properties Inc.  

It was the BIG day to Mr. Mbingwa,- the  unveiling of the so declared “Biggest Mall in Pesalands” and Mwakazi had not yet finished the interior d├ęcor in some of the shops!

We feel you Bwana Mwakazi.  Don’t we all blunder! What we need is to get to level where we forgive ourselves. However, it is much easier to forgive others than forgive ourselves because we keep replaying the “bad boy/girl” tape in our minds denying ourselves the joy of being.  

Whatever the outcome of this conversation may be, Mr. Mwakazi would greatly benefit from the following lessons towards self-forgiveness;

Stage 1..... Appreciate that blunders are part of life
As happened to a brother in Luke 15: 11-32! Here, we meet a father who has two sons. The younger son demanded his inheritance, the father obliged and divided his property between the two sons. 

The younger son soon relocated to a far off land where he squandered this inheritance through ‘wild living.’

Think about it.......Big, huge, wide blunder....... 

Okay..... We mess up big time! We may have made bad life choices through destructive behavior such as addiction, assault, cheating, stealing, slander, rumour-mongering etc. Or made wrong career moves or even made bad business decisions etc. We all do.......

Stage 2.....We soon come face to face with the consequences
Verse 14-16 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need .So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything."

Whether intended or not, the consequences are similar. We hurt ourselves and other people! The consequences may result in a huge dent in our family ties, finances, education, business, career, health, spiritual life, social life etc. But there is a worse aspect to it. The dent on our being... Oh MY! The guilt.... the shame.......

Stage 3.....It is okay to feel guilty
It means you are aware that there are major values that are broken. You have a choice of making guilt a lifestyle or a catalyst to self-forgiveness. Choosing the former leads to anger and resentment towards yourself and those around as you play the “scapegoat game”... who will take the blame for your actions? 

That guilt may lead to a state of depression and ultimately “dis-ease”. You will get ashamed of the mess you are in. And why not? You have caused yourself and others a lot of embarrassment. You feel bad about who you are versus what you did and start beating yourself up eroding your already low self-esteem.

You want to punish yourself by being as miserable as you can get! Hi- You are best advised to limit the “guilt season” (as you know seasons don’t last for long) which means that you immediately.....

Stage 4.....Take responsibility
Verse 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

Accept you messed up.....  Not for generalities such as you are negligent, bad company, irresponsible etc. but be specific....What exactly did you do or say? Probe and interrogate the action further.

Why did you do it? What was the catalyst? Has it happened previously and what catalyzed the occurrence then? Is there any correlation to the catalyst which means there is a deep seated issue you need to work on? What is your value system?   

Is the action or word spoken in line with your current value system? If not, what caused you to go against your value system? PLEASE NOTE that where the blunder is caused by lack of skill, you should not beat yourself up but rather acquire the necessary skill.  

Be clear on what you are responsible for and what others are responsible for so that you also do not take others responsibility. Go a step further, write down and read out what you are responsible for so that its importance can sink in.

Recognize there is a better option than the pigsty (guilt) – home (self- forgiveness).

Stage 4.....Appreciate the blunder impact
Verse 18-19  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

a. Get a clear understanding of the impact on yourself.
It must have been terrible (morally, spiritually, physically etc.) for a previously wealthy son to not only hire himself to a foreigner but to live with pigs! 

Moreover, the hunger pangs were so bad that  “He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”  Furthermore, he felt that he did not feel he even deserved   the position of a son but that of a servant! 

We also expose ourselves to possible financial, job, customer, spirituality, relationship, reputation etc. losses in addition to the self-beating, the guilt and shame may lead to stress, indigestion, depression, high blood pressure, heart attack etc.

       b.What is the impact on involved others?
 The young man was pretty sure how great his sin was as seen in verse 18-19  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 

It is good to note that misery loves company and your bad feelings and related reactions like anger, silence, mood swings etc. will affect those close to you.   Yes- hurting people hurt others.

Stage 5..... Decide to forgive yourself
The young man must have accepted that he was human and to “err is human”. We all do- no one is exempt. Sometimes intentionally and other times, it is an unintended consequence of a decision we make. 

Decide to boost your self-esteem. Rather than having negative self-talk “how could I........”,  “ Oh, what an awful person I am...?” etc. Change the self-talk to -“ I forgive, appreciate  and love myself” or such uplifting statements.  

Sometimes you may have done your best, given your capability, conditions, understanding and maturity at the time. 

Stage 6....Make amends with the other involved parties-
Verse 20-21“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

This is one determined son. We see him thoroughly rehearsing his apology as he heads back home and actually apologizing.  

All said and done, we have to appreciate that not all people we have wronged will receive us with hugs, kisses and a mega party like this ‘special father’. 

For others extra effort, tact and patience will be deployed as happened with the older son. Yet , we are not sure if the relationship between the two brothers was repaired! 

When he learned of the celebration going on courtesy of his errant brother’s return in verse 28-32- “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Whether the wronged person reciprocates or not..........

Stage 8...Make a decision—to walk a different path
In verse 22- “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Just like the son, you have to discard the old clothes and adorn new best robes (your appearance), rings (what you subscribe to) and sandals (how you walk).

You possibly need to discard some   discordant values, behaviors and habits. Some of the values you hold may actually not be yours but what was adopted from significant others and may not be realistic currently- like this unrealistic expectation that you must bail out this errant brother or sister every so often!

And clothe yourself with some new positive ones that support your new values such as appreciation and gratitude. Start noting and giving thanks for the nice things you get to do (patient, kind, giving, determined, persistent etc.) 

Add to the above  list amenities you enjoy—your home, infrastructure (education, hospitals, IT, transport etc.), utilities (power, water, gas etc.) the environment (the weather, trees flowers, rivers, mountains etc.)

Stage 9...Test whether you have forgiven yourself
Can you recall the blunder and not get angry or feel pain? Can You?

Stage 10.....Share the lessons learned
You can help other people so that they do not make similar blunders. What about mentorship programs directed at those who are vulnerable to making similar blunders?

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur;

  • What is your self-forgiveness process?
  • Which lessons have you learned in the process?

Share your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below. Who knows- You could probably be one to benefit from one of the “mentorship programs”!



Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.

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Virginia Mburu
Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach
Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year.  Download some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on www.biasharacoach.blogspot.co.ke