Self-forgiveness requires self-awareness, because it goes quite deep, often back to childhood where certain founding belief systems were created about being good enough to be worthy of unconditional love. If any parent gets angry and punishes their child for what they perceive as ‘bad behaviour’, then not only are they demonstrating conditional love, but they are teaching the child that this is the way to treat his/herself.
Children essentially end up treating themselves they way they were treated by their parents. The parent demonstrates what the child deserves, and this creates the fundamental belief system in the child “I deserve this”. Therefore if a child was punished by its parent, as most children are at some point, you will find the deeply held sub-conscious belief “I deserve punishment”.
The most basic understanding of punishment for the child is the withholding of love, to be replaced by coldness, anger or mis-treatment. To a child, lovelessness is possibly the worst punishment, because all it wants is the love of the parent. When it is absent, immediately all the child’s thoughts turn to how can it bring back the approval and love of the parent. How does it have to be better? How can it be more loveable? Because it perceives that it is not good enough as it is.
As the child grows up, it subconsciously fulfils the belief system of “I deserve punishment” or “I do not deserve love/happiness” and self-sabotage gets played out. Love is rejected, and the individual denies themselves self-love. They opt instead to punish themselves through the denial of love, because this is exactly what was demonstrated to them by their parent(s). This also gets played out with other individuals, especially in intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. Loving attention is asked for, but then rejected, in a strange form of power game that brings a feeling of control and security to the person playing it. However, it also brings deep loneliness and suffering, a punishment which the individual believes they deserve.
If you have an individual that believes they deserves punishment, they will punish themselves in the same manner as they were punished. They will be harsh and critical of themselves, they will create emotional pain for themselves, they will hurt others (sometimes intentionally) and they will compound it all with feeling guilty about what they have done.
So not only does the layer of guilt need to be lifted off, but underneath this the critical self-judgements need to come into awareness, so they can be challenged by the more mature adult mind. At the root of it all, you will usually find the belief “I am not good enough to receive unconditional love”, and thus we deny ourselves of it.
To remove the weight of guilt from our heart, we have to see that we are not to blame, as guilt is essentially self-blame. Why are we blaming ourselves? We believe it is our fault that things go wrong. We believe that we are to blame for the bad things that occur in our life, and around us too. This comes again from childhood, where we learnt that everything was someone’s ‘fault’. And if love was not forthcoming from those we looked up to, it was surely our fault; a consequence of our failings as a human being.
So to undo this, we have to see our goodness. We have to be disciplined in that we do not focus on any perceived failings, but we learn to commend ourselves, to see the qualities of our personality. Our guilt is always saying to us “you did it wrong”, “you messed it up again” “it was your fault” etc. but that is simply the echo of the critical voice of the parent. If we can be alert and see that voice arise, we can choose to refuse to listen to it anymore, and thus free ourselves of the effect which its condemning tones have upon our being.
When we look back, of course we have made mistakes that might have hurt others, but such things are the consequence of learning how to be a fully responsible and fully developed human being. Mistakes are made, and we do our best not to make them again. Sometimes they are made over and over again, as we are stubborn, but that is another aspect of our humanity which we can learn to let go of. As long as the desire to learn and grow is there, we should not punish ourselves for struggling to do so, as it is not easy. As we forgive ourselves, we are learning to be more patient and tolerant with our inner-child, rather than impatient, harsh and critical. Inside, we are still that small child, longing for love, yet somehow afraid of it, because when it gets withdrawn the void it leaves is unbearable.
This is why we need to open our heart to the higher love that is never withdrawn, because it is the only 100% reliable source of unconditional love. To become aware of and accept the unconditional love of our divine spiritual parent when it is revealed to us is the healing of the wounded child, because to accept it is to confirm “yes, I am worthy. I do deserve love.”
Because unconditional love is always being extended to us we have many, many opportunities to stop denying ourselves of it, to forgive ourselves and let ourselves experience it. So forgiveness occurs as you allow yourself to experience it, free of any thoughts of guilt or unworthiness.
Only the letting-in of unconditional love can heal our wounds, erase all our perceived mistakes and sins, and bestow its beautiful light upon us.
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