The worth of self-forgiveness

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In the modern literature, there is a plenty of studies devoted to the topics of forgiveness. While little attention is paid to the sub-topic, or, as Hall and Fincham (2005) call it, the step-child of forgiveness – self-forgiveness. While interpersonal forgiveness appears to be in the center of attention, the intrapersonal forgiveness is essential, especially when considering intrapersonal conflicts. The article covers emotional, social-cognitive and offense-related determinants of self-forgiveness. The article “Self–forgiveness: The stepchild of forgiveness research” sheds light on the topic and aims to stimulate the interest and further research.

Summary

Hall and Fincham state that self-love and self-respect are the crucial aspects of self-forgiveness. They are usually included in the standard definitions of self-forgiveness. It is essential to acknowledge self-worth and independence from own wrongdoing (Hall & Fincham, 2005). According to the views of philosophers noted in the article by Hall and Fincham, there are three elements that are usually required. The first element, an objective fault or wrongdoing, leads to the second one, which is the negative feelings that are connected with it. The resolution takes place when an internal acceptance of oneself is achieved (Hall & Fincham, 2005). The goal is to abandon self-resentment, acknowledge own fault and to foster self-love and compassion.

There are several phases in the process of self-forgiveness. An uncovering phase includes denial, guilt and shame. Next, a decision phase means a change of heart. Work phase deals with compassion and growing self-awareness. The final, an outcome phase is connected with finding a new purpose and meaning (Hall & Fincham, 2005).

There are many aspects that interpersonal and intrapersonal forgiveness share. Anyhow, both types impose a conscious effort. The crucial difference between the two is that while interpersonal forgiveness is unconditional and cannot be “undone,” intrapersonal one may include conditions and be impermanent (Hall & Fincham, 2005). Another essential aspect that makes the two different, is that reconciliation may be abandoned for interpersonal forgiveness – which is not possible to omit when considering intrapersonal forgiveness.

The difference between true self-forgiveness and pseudo self-forgiveness is that true self-forgiveness includes the acceptance of wrongdoing and responsibility for it. Pseudo self-forgiveness may skip this phase, as it triggers the feelings of regret and shame. It may be framed by denial, rationalization and self-deception. True self-forgiveness may be a long and uncomfortable process.

Reflection

The article addresses the topic that has been long overshadowed. Nevertheless, self-forgiveness is an issue that deserves a considerable amount of attention. Hall and Fincham managed to deliver the data in a structured manner. They used the credible sources to rely on during their research and overview. There were the sections that addressed emotional components, social-cognitive and offense-related determinants. Also, limitations of the proposed approach were considered. The similarities and differences between interpersonal and intrapersonal forgiveness were considered which allowed to compare the two.

There were the insights I gained from reading this article. It was unexpected to find out that self-forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness are unrelated. It was essential to consider both guilt and shame, the way they act in and also that shame leads to more self-destruction than guilt. Indeed, it is hard to forgive oneself as the offender cannot be avoided. Moreover, reconciliation cannot be omitted – which is a crucial difference from interpersonal forgiveness. Probably, the most powerful insight s connected with grasping the difference between the true and pseudo self-forgiveness. There are the stages that cannot be skipped – otherwise it would be denial, delusions and rationalization which allows to avoid unpleasant emotions. Nevertheless, pseudo self-forgiveness cannot provide fully the same benefits as the true self-forgiveness.

My personal interest in the topic is that I faced rather severe difficulties regarding self-forgiveness. I know how destructive shame and guilt may be. It was essential for me to read more about the determinants and the phases of self-forgiveness. I suppose to apply the obtained knowledge – both for personal purposes and for helping people to reconcile with themselves.

Application

As a psychologist, I would apply this theory in practice. For instance, the counseling setting would be connected with depression. A young woman came with depression and absence of sense of being because of her loss of love. She broke up with a man whom she loved very much but their relationships went horrible. She feels guilty for behaving in a particular manner during their quarrels. She says she feels she could do it in the opposite way – but she did not. Even though she feels offended by the man’s behavior, still, she feels guilty that she could not do anything good of that relationships and now she is alone – for a year. She cannot forget and cannot forgive herself.

As a counselor, in accordance with the article, I would start from detecting the real adequate amount of her guilt. It is not only she who built or broke that relationships. I would lead the woman through the phases of self-forgiveness: uncover her guilt and negative feelings, help her launch a change of the heart, support her growing self-awareness and self-love and, finally, together we would build a new meaning and a fresh perspective for her.

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  1. Hall, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (2005). Self–forgiveness: The stepchild of forgiveness research. Journal of social and clinical psychology, 24(5), 621-637.
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