We all have those times where we sit and reflect on our lives thus far and sometimes we're reminded of the ugly things we've done. You think to yourself, "wow, I can't believe I actually said/did that to so and so, that was really mean. I would never do that now." Then you may start to feel remorse and want to reach out to someone who you hurt like six years ago. But then you think that might be weird so you just tell yourself to learn from it and never be so mean again.
I had one of these moments the other day and I realized that I've done some pretty crappy things over the years. Even though I am considered a very kind person-- because I am and I put in effort to always be kind and caring-- there have been times when I wasn't so kind. When I started thinking about things I've said and done I became really disappointed in myself. Now, I try to make it a point to never regret anything in my life and learn from all my experiences, but if I could go back in time I would definitely do some things differently.
While having this moment, I realized that I'm at a point in my life where I'm doing a lot of growing. I've come to realize that you can't grow until you let go. As I've said before letting go is never an easy thing to do. So how do you let go and move on from past mistakes? How do you get rid of the guilty feeling you feel deep inside?
For me letting go means apologizing, asking for forgiveness from the person I hurt, and last but not least forgiving myself.
Apologizing can be really hard sometimes. You can't find the words to say or you just can't bring yourself to say them. But apologizing is the first step to letting go. If you're struggling with what to say: sit back and think about the incident for a few minutes; while you do this let yourself feel all the emotions the memory brings up. Reflect on those emotions and own them. Use them to give you the fuel you need to apologize, because a sincere apology is always the best kind.
Too often, when I was younger, I would let my emotions get the best of me and use words that I didn't really mean. I once told my ex-boyfriend, we had a bad break-up, that it was a good thing his mother wasn't here to see how he was acting because she would be ashamed-- his mom passed when he was a kid-- so yeah that was really harsh. Although, sending a video of him and his new girlfriend burning my picture, that still doesn't justify what I said. I apologized more times than I could count, but looking back I really didn't feel that bad about what I had said because I was hurting. Now, I feel horrible and realize the magnitude of those words and I am so terribly sorry that I ever let them appear on his screen.
Asking for forgiveness
The next step is to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is key to letting go, because it lets you know that the person you hurt realizes that you messed up and you learned from your mistake. So here I am asking for forgiveness.
I am ashamed of how I handled that breakup. He was my "first love" -- well at least the closest thing I've ever experienced to love-- so when we broke up I just didn't want to accept it and I acted crazy. I can say that I wish I would have handled things better and I am sorry for everything I did after that break-up and if I could take it all back I would. You broke me and my heart and it took me a long time to recover, but I am thankful for what we had and I'm glad that it was with you. I'm sorry if I hurt you too and I hope you can forgive me.
Perhaps the worst thing I ever did was pursue someone else's boyfriend -- this honestly may be the one thing that I actually do regret doing and it is something I will never do again. The boy was someone I had dated before and someone who had always been around. He was someone I was really never ready to let go of. I liked the idea of he and I and wasn't planning on giving up on that, so I didn't. Dear, I'm sorry that I didn't respect you as a fellow female. I'm sorry I didn't respect your relationship and that I thought what I was doing was OK. I'm sorry that I caused you pain. Can you forgive me?
The tricky thing about forgiveness is that sometimes you don't get it. So how do you move on when you know the person you hurt is still harboring negative feelings towards you? You just have to remind yourself that you messed up. You can't get mad at them for not forgiving you, that will only make things worse. Take a second and put yourself in their shoes; try to feel what you imagine they feel. Don't get discouraged and just remember that it may take them some time to forgive and start working on forgiving yourself.
This is probably the most important thing. You have to be able to forgive yourself in order to let go and move on. We often get too caught up on how others feel towards us that we forget to think about how we feel about ourselves. We have to let ourselves feel things out. Reflect on the situation and how it makes you feel and embrace those feelings. When you're ready tell yourself that you know what you did was wrong and you didn't like the consequences; so now you know not to make that mistake again.
When you get to the point where you can forgive yourself, this means that you are growing, because you are able to reflect and realize your mistakes. When you forgive yourself you end up lifting a weight off your shoulders. It stops you from beating yourself up about things you can't change. From personal experience, I know that beating yourself up is not a healthy thing to do.
I hope this article inspires you to apologize and ask for forgiveness from the person you hurt, and to also forgive yourself.